According to the San Diego Union Tribune on Feb. 20, the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) in southern California is being sued for a district-wide yoga program introduced at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. The classes were rolled out to five of nine EUSD schools. Additional institutions in the district, including Ocean Knoll, Mission Estancia and La Costa Heights began participating in the program in January.
The National Center for Law & Policy, a nonprofit law firm, issued a news release indicating it had officially filed the lawsuit on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock. Their two children, both minors and students in the school district are also named as plaintiffs in the suit. The couple seeks to stop the program because it violates California state laws protecting religious freedom and is preventing students who wish to opt out from meeting the mandatory number of physical education minutes required under the stated code of education.
The yoga program is funded by a $534,000 grant from the Jois Foundation who supports Ashtanga yoga and wellness programs in schools. Dean Broyles, the center’s attorney, stated earlier this year that because of this style of practice, he felt the district had violated state and federal laws by indoctrinating students with religious beliefs.
The EUSD, with the help of researchers from the University of San Diego, is measuring how yoga affects students’ mental and physical health against those students who have yet to begin the program. David Miyashiro, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services with the district said,
“Teachers in our schools have reported the program is effective.”
Nevertheless, the plaintiffs must feel they have a case to bring such a frivolous lawsuit against the EUSD that could ultimately cost the local taxpayers money, potentially bankrupt the district and close down all the schools. So what is the real concern here? Is it the ‘separation of church and state’ as Broyles contends? “EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust,” said center attorney Dean Broyles, in the news release.
A physical education program, whether it consists of calisthenics, weight lifting or track promotes health and wellness. Yoga is no different. Miyashiro said the program simply promotes well-being. Any parent who does not want their kids in the program has the ability to opt out.
So if the adult plaintiffs in the case are allowed to pull their kids out of the program and switch them to a different class, like dodgeball, then why didn’t they do it? Surely the “yoga program” wasn’t the only physical education class available. Apparently it will take going to court to help them decide.
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