On November 2, the 9th Circuit ruled in Fields v. Palmdale School District (2005 WL 2861946) that “there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it.” (emphasis in original). This shocking revelation that parents should not be allowed to protect their seven- to ten- year old children from being exposed to sexual content at their schools came from the same court who just three short years ago informed us that the Pledge of Allegiance “impermissibly coerces a religious act.” Newdow v. U.S. Cong., 328 F.3d 466 (9th Cir. 2002).
I realize that I live under a rock during the law school semester, but I certainly did not hear the public outcry about this case that I would have expected. Hence, my need to end my hiatus from this blog.
It’s nice to know that we can always count on the 9th Circuit to straighten us out when we think that the words “under God” are not a coercive state endorsement of religion and when we expect that our elementary school children will not be required to answer a survey that asks how often they think about sex. Apparently it is acceptable for a school to inculcate children with values about sex but not for a school to begin the day with recitation of the Pledge, which, of course, is not mandatory.
Parents have a right to inform their children when and as they wish on the subject of sex; they have no constitutional right, however, to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so.Many people subscribe to different views about the moral import of sex, but parents should have discretion about how they address such weighty matters with their young children. Parents have a fundamental right to instill their values in their children, and when the school district has final say on when and where to perpetuate its own values, that right is undermined.
Hopefully the Supreme Court will grant cert in this case and, once again, put the 9th Circuit in its place. Meanwhile, the right of parents to raise their children in the way they see fit continues to be eroded by those who believe that the State knows best. I close with what I find to be chilling words from the NEA in 1885 (reprinted in Judith Areen, Family Law 1175 (4th ed. 1999)):
The first step of the State should be to get possession of the minds of men; get control of their ideas…. This can be accomplished by a system of uniform, well-organized and liberally supported public schools…. The power of education, rightly conducted, is almost omnipotent.