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Court says parents not sole providers of kids' sex education


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http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/11/02/sex.survey.ap/index.html

School sex survey lawsuit thrown out

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by parents outraged that the Palmdale school district in California surveyed their elementary school children about sex.

The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the parents' claim that they have the exclusive right to tell their children about sex.

In upholding a lower court ruling against the parents, Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt said "no such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation's history and tradition or implied in the concept of ordered liberty."

The appeals court noted that other courts have upheld mandatory health classes, a school system's condom distribution program and compulsory sex ed.

The parents had sought unspecified damages.

An attorney for the parents, Erik Gunderson, said he was considering an appeal. The district's attorney, Dennis Walsh, said the survey was part of a legitimate effort aimed at helping students.

The district dropped the survey in 2002 amid complaints from parents.

It was given to children in the first, third and fifth grades as part of a program to gauge early trauma and help youngsters overcome barriers to learning.

Among other things, the students were asked how often they thought about sex.

Parents whose students took the survey signed consent forms. But the forms never mentioned sex would be a topic.

Palmdale is in northeast Los Angeles County in Southern California.

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The court is probably correct that there is no such thing as a right to be the exclusive source of sex education, but the school really dropped the ball by not giving enough details to the parents in the consent form. I would imagine that many parents would not want their 3rd or 5th graders surveyed on issues of sex.

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1) Are the plaintiffs really trying to make the claim that their authority to teach their child about sex means that no one has the authority to ask their child about sex?

2) Am I the ony one who thinks that if I had been asked, in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades, how often I thought about sex, that my answer would have been "All the time. Boys are fun, they like to wrestle and play ball. Girls are icky, they play with dolls." (In short, how many of us would have answered with how many times they thought about gender?)

(Or am I just showing my "old fart-ism"?)

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It was given to children in the first....

Carolaine is 6 and in the first Grade.. She doesnt know what sex is. She does like sleepovers and has chased a boy and kissed his arm to make him "Freak Out!". *im surprised she wasnt kicked out for harassment.*

Totally wrong for anyone to ask my 6 year old how many times she thinks about sex.

You want to ask her, ask me if you can ask her.

11-12 yrs. old.. not so much of a problem with it.

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1) Are the plaintiffs really trying to make the claim that their authority to teach their child about sex means that no one has the authority to ask their child about sex?

2) Am I the ony one who thinks that if I had been asked, in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades, how often I thought about sex, that my answer would have been "All the time. Boys are fun, they like to wrestle and play ball. Girls are icky, they play with dolls." (In short, how many of us would have answered with how many times they thought about gender?)

(Or am I just showing my "old fart-ism"?)

I thought the same thing when I posted the article last night Larry. If you asked me about sex in those grades I'm sure I would have had no clue what you were talking about. Maybe in 5th grade I might have actually heard about it, but girls were still "icky" for the most part :laugh:

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Guest Gichin13
I think we need more detail about this whole thing before we can assess it.

It all really comes down to degree and subject area here. We do not have much detail on the nature of the topics and specific questions asked.

That being said, I start from a view of disagreement with the legal premise of the court. Elementary school -- seems like parents should have the power to completely stop discussion of the topic for this age group if they so wish. That part of the decision I would take issue with as I do not think a school should be able to preempt that ultimately parental role.

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Lets do the common sense test:

Go to the park this weekend and ask twenty 6 year olds how often they edit: think of... sex.

A. How many parents give you the beatdown?

B. How many days in jail under suspicion of being a child molester?

C. How many people were o.k. with it?

Upon completion you will know if it is an appropriate question or not. If it is not o.k. to ask in a park in front of the parents.. Its not ok to ask without the parents there to help explain the question after its too late.

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Sarge, show me where in the constitution it says you have a right to be the sole provider of sex education?

But thanks for showing how the right wing will legislate from the bench.

I assume you meant Sarge being the sole provider of sex education to his own kids.

But where it comes from is the idea that parents are the legal guardians of their children until the age of 18. Perhaps you're OK with someone coming in uninvited and undermining your parental authority and prerogatives. I'm not.

Keep in mind, this happened in California. This is where education agendas originate and propogate. It was not an accident that this survey happened without parents being notified.

And if I gotta choose between Sarge's view of the court that reaffirms parental rights and authority, and your view which seems to parallel the 9th Circuit's view and sacrifices parental rights and authority for the benefit of whatever the latest education fad is, it's a no-brainer -- for me, and for the majority in this country.

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But where it comes from is the idea that parents are the legal guardians of their children until the age of 18. Perhaps you're OK with someone coming in uninvited and undermining your parental authority and prerogatives. I'm not.

Keep in mind, this happened in California. This is where education agendas originate and propogate. It was not an accident that this survey happened without parents being notified.

And if I gotta choose between Sarge's view of the court that reaffirms parental rights and authority, and your view which seems to parallel the 9th Circuit's view and sacrifices parental rights and authority for the benefit of whatever the latest education fad is, it's a no-brainer -- for me, and for the majority in this country.

Why do you assume I'm in favor of the school? I'm not. Parents should have been asked. However there is no right to being the sole provider of sex ed. Sorry.

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Why do you assume I'm in favor of the school? I'm not. Parents should have been asked. However there is no right to being the sole provider of sex ed. Sorry.

So where do you draw the line on parental authority? You say the parents should have been asked, but then turn around and negate it by saying the parents don't have the right to be the sole provider of sex ed. If parents don't have that right, why do you say they should have been asked? It's obvious that they don't need to be asked, if they don't have that right.

Also, if parents don't have the right to be the sole provider of sex ed to their own children, who else shares that right? And why are the rights of a teacher/principal/school system to teach a child about sex ed elevated above the rights of the child's own parent to teach/screen sex ed?

You may be right, there is no right of a parent to being the sole provider of sex ed to their own children. But that's only in the 9th circuit, and only until it's overturned.

(I am SOOOOO glad I'm out of California!)

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So where do you draw the line on parental authority? You say the parents should have been asked, but then turn around and negate it by saying the parents don't have the right to be the sole provider of sex ed. If parents don't have that right, why do you say they should have been asked? It's obvious that they don't need to be asked, if they don't have that right.

Also, if parents don't have the right to be the sole provider of sex ed to their own children, who else shares that right? And why are the rights of a teacher/principal/school system to teach a child about sex ed elevated above the rights of the child's own parent to teach/screen sex ed?

You may be right, there is no right of a parent to being the sole provider of sex ed to their own children. But that's only in the 9th circuit, and only until it's overturned.

(I am SOOOOO glad I'm out of California!)

A parent needs to be asked because they have authority over a child. They have no special right over sexual education. Also matters of public health are very much in the hands of the government. The government is free to put ads on TV at any hour of the day, for example, even if it concerns an STD. Are you saying they shouldn't be able to do that because parents have a special right to give an ok before any issue concerning sex is even touched upon? Nonsense.

The school however should have asked becuase the understanding is that schools do ask about such matters. Any change in this policy should be communicated so that a parent can decide if the school is still the right place for that child.

Remember saying that parents have a "right" in a federal court means more then just the matter covered in this issue. I agree that on this the school was wrong, but I don't agree that matters of sexual education can never be discussed for any reason because of some fabricated right.

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My take:

No, parent's have no right to be "sole provider". That would imply a parental right to demand that the rest of the world support their right to lie to their children, or simply to keep them ignorant. (Parents have the right to tell their kids just about anything, sexually. They don't have the right to demand that the world act in accordance with their wishes.)

Yes, parents do have a right to be informed and involved. The schools have no right to conduct sex education without the parent's knowledge. (The parent's consent, I would claim, is not required.)

This wasn't sex education. (At least, not according to the article. Although we all know that it's possible to design a "survey" that has nothing to do with collecting answers.) The parents, here, aren't claiming that the school can't teach sex ed, they're claiming that the school can't even find out what the kids already know about sex.

(Although, based on the one question that's in the article, and the target group, I'd suspect that this survey is some California goofball thing that's designed to create a soundbite for use with an agenda. "Surveys show that 8-year-olds think about sex more often than 17-year-olds!" or some such.)

I would support the schools right to conduct a survey. There may well be a legitimate reason why the government needs to know this stuff, to plan their curricula. But I'd suspect that this really isn't all that valid a study. (Based on nothing more than a low opinion of California.)

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Well, how would you feel if the military started sending recruiters into elementary schools and started teaching kids about how great and honorable it is to serve in the military?

Would you say that the parents have the right to be the sole provider of that kind of information? Or does the government have the right to insert itself into a child's education in this manner regardless of the parents' wishes?

(Oops, should have asked first, sorry.)

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Well, how would you feel if the military started sending recruiters into elementary schools and started teaching kids about how great and honorable it is to serve in the military?

Would you say that the parents have the right to be the sole provider of that kind of information? Or does the government have the right to insert itself into a child's education in this manner regardless of the parents' wishes?

(Oops, should have asked first, sorry.)

I think to some extent the government does have the right to determine what will be taught in public schools. If the military started sending recruiters to elementary school I'd be thrilled, I used to love talking to those guys in high school. I do however understand the point you were trying to make, even if you did assume I'd be annoyed. I think the key here is schools need to communicate what they intend to teach with parents.

But it seems to me, and I could be wrong, that to declare this a right in federal court would effect matters outside of schools. That is where I have trouble supporting your position Blue.

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If we accept that parents have a right to be the exclusive teacher about sex to their children, doesn't that create a problem in other respects? What if some parents feels that they don't want their children exposed to other subjects during secondary education such as science, math, etc? (before anyone dismisses this idea, I could easily see some parents feeling that they don't won't the school to teach evolution or intelligent design, depending on which side they fall on the argument). Should we allow parents to pick and choose educational subjects for each child?

I think by sending a child to public school, you accept to a certain extent that the school has the power to set the agenda (as long as not dangerous, illegal, etc). If you don't like what your school district is teaching, you can find private school, move, or homeschool. But if you choose to keep your child in public school, you have to accept some degree of control.

Now, I disagree with what the school did as I stated above. They should have informed the parents and should have allowed parents to opt out as a matter of good policy and frankly good manners. But I wouldn't create a constitutional right of a parent to pick and choose their child's educational menu in a public school.

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