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Trial Begins In Lawsuit Over Encinitas School District Yoga Class

Trial of a lawsuit that seeks to stop yoga instruction in the Encinitas Union School District got underway today in a San Diego courtroom.

Photo by Kyla Calvert

Third graders at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School do the Triangle pose during one of their bi-weekly yoga classes, Dec. 18, 2012.

The lawsuit was filed by the National Center for Law and Policy on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children attend one of the district's nine schools. They contend that Ashtanga yoga is religious in nature, and that opting out costs students physical education time.

Controversy over the program erupted last year as the district began to develop a health and wellness curriculum that includes yoga.

The program was funded by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga, a fast-paced form of yoga of progressively more demanding poses with synchronized breathing.

Superintendent Timothy Baird testified that parents are allowed to opt out of yoga, but the children of those who do will receive less PE time than participating students. However, they will still receive at least the state-required minimum of PE minutes, he said.

He denied that the foundation hired yoga teachers for the district or had a hand in writing the curriculum.

The superintendent testified that the pace of the yoga exercises and terminology have been changed to make it "kid friendly,'' but the poses remain the same as in the adult version.

Only part of the full health and wellness program has been implemented around the district, according to Baird.

"We're constantly writing the curriculum. It's not done,'' Baird said.

The trial is expected to last two to three days in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge John Meyer. The parties have agreed to have Meyer decide the issue, so there is no jury.


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