Thursday, 4:30 PM
Judge dismisses Lexington suit over school lesson involving same-sex couples
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff
A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit by two Lexington couples who claimed the local public school district violated their constitutional rights by teaching their young children about different types of families, including those headed by same-sex couples.
Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of the US District Court said that under the Constitution, public schools are "entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy. Diversity is a hallmark of our nation.''
In a 38-page decision, Wolf said the two couples -- David and Tonia Parker, and Robert and Robin Wirthlin -- have the option of sending their children to private schools or home-schooling them. He also said the couples can ask the school district to excuse their children when classroom discussions touch on issues of homosexuality.
But they have no right to prescribe what the school district teaches, he said, citing precedent-setting federal court rulings.
"As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal, 'I pay the school master, but 'tis the school boys that educate my son,'" Wolf wrote.
The couples filed their suit in 2006 after Jacob Parker, then in kindergarten, brought home a book depicting different families, including a same-sex couple. Joey Wirthlin, then in first grade, was read a book featuring a prince who married another prince.
Moments after he heard about today's ruling, David Parker said, "We will continue to move forward, as we always have, with patience and tolerance in these matters." He declined to elaborate.
Sarah Wunsch, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts, which filed a friend of the court briefing siding with the school district, praised Wolf's ruling.
"I think it's a terrific opinion," she said. "A parent can't control what's taught in the public schools based on their own personal religious views. So it keeps public education alive, really."