9th Circuit: Parents have 'no right' in school sex discussions
SAN FRANCISCO (BP)--Parents have “no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on [the subject of sex] to their students in any forum or manner they select,” according to a ruling handed down by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Nov. 2.
Elementary school parents had filed a lawsuit against the Palmdale School District in Los Angeles after their children came home from school complaining about having been asked troubling questions regarding sex during a school-administered survey.
The outraged parents in the lawsuit said they had the sole right “to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex,” but the appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that had decided in favor of the schools.
Among the contents of the survey given to children in the first, third and fifth grades were questions about whether they thought about having sex, thought about touching other people’s “private parts” and whether they could “stop thinking about having sex.”
School officials said the survey was simply meant to measure children’s exposure to early trauma and to assist in better meeting their needs.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., in his Nov. 4 commentary on the matter posted at albertmohler.com, called the decision “one of the most outrageous infringements upon parental rights ever made by an American court” and expressed regret that a school district would introduce the idea of sex to 6-, 8- and 10-year-olds.
“We can be fairly confident that most parents would be upset when people talk about sex with their young children,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “After all, how many first graders have any concept of sex? Most parents would see these young children as needing protection from the very knowledge of sex, must less the intrusion of questions related to their own sexual feelings and perceptions.”
Before the surveys were administered, parents signed consent forms. But the consent forms never mentioned that sex would be a topic.
The court ruled, “In summary, we hold that there is no free-standing fundamental right of parents ‘to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs’ and that the asserted right is not encompassed by any other fundamental right.
“... We conclude only that the parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject to their students in any forum or manner they select,” the court added. “We further hold that a psychological survey is a reasonable state action pursuant to legitimate educational as well as health and welfare interests of the state.”
The three-judge panel said “once parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished.”
“This is an incredible statement,” Mohler said. “America’s parents are now being told that, if they choose to educate their children in the public schools, they forfeit any fundamental right to control the education of their own children.”
Most parents, Mohler said, would view the school-administered sex survey as “an unwarranted and harmful intrusion -- an abuse of state power that robbed their children of innocence and security.”
The case could be appealed to the full Ninth Circuit, encompassing 24 active judges, and the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit, Mohler noted, has a history of seeing its rulings overturned. Its jurisdiction covers California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and Hawaii.
“Nevertheless, the big lesson here is the fact that a federal appeals court dared to hand down such a decision and to cloak its assault on parental rights in language that gives government officials virtual carte blanche over the sexual education of children,” he wrote. “If this doesn’t lead to outrage among America’s parents, what will?”