Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Parents of Encinitas elementary school students have filed a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District. The lawsuit claims yoga classes that are part of the district's physical education curriculum are religious and violate the separation of church and state.
A complaint filed on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock asserts that students who opt out of the yoga instruction are being denied the minimum amount of physical education class time guaranteed under state law and seeks to have the classes ended.
Encinitas Yoga Complaint
The classes began at about half of Encinitas' elementary schools this fall after the district received a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga.
The couple is being represented by Dean Broyles of the conservative-Christian National Center for Law and Policy. Broyles declined to be interviewed Wednesday. But in a December interview, he likened Encinitas students to religious guinea pigs.
“It is the stated goal of both the Jois Foundation and the district itself is to prove – scientifically – that Ashtanga yoga works for kids here in the district and then export it nationally,” he said.
Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird said the suit surprised him because he believes the district has worked effectively with parents who had questions about - or opted their children out of - the classes. But his view hasn’t changed since some parents first opposed the classes.
“We’re not teaching religion – so, that’s pretty basic," he said. "We’re doing something that’s very mainstream, that people from all faiths and beliefs do.”
Baird says the district plans to continue the yoga classes and has several law firms offering to represent the district pro bono.
A group of parents began protesting the classes in October and began an online petition against the classes. By the end of the year, the petition had about 260 signatures, while a petition to protect the classes had about 2,700 signatures.