School yoga fight ends

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Tony Perry tony.perry@la­ Twit­ter: @LATsandiego

SAN DIEGO — The legal battle to block the teach­ing of yoga in Encini­tas public schools in north­ern San Diego County is fin­ished, the lawyer who led the un­suc­cess­ful fight said Thurs­day.

Dean Broyles, at­tor­ney for the Es­con­dido-based Na­tional Cen­ter for Law and Pol­icy, said that while his clients do not plan to ap­peal, the ef­fort to “ed­u­cate par­ents” about the re­li­gious in­tent of yoga will con­tinue.

“[We] fully ex­pect to be en­gaged in fu­ture ef­forts to stop the de­cep­tive re­li­gious in­doc­tri­na­tion of our chil­dren by the state,” Broyles said.

In April, a three-judge panel of the 4th Dis­trict Court of Ap­peal up­held a de­ci­sion by the San Diego County Su­pe­rior Court that although yoga clearly has re­li­gious over­tones, the Encini­tas pro­gram is “de­void of any re­li­gious, mys­ti­cal or spir­i­tual trap­pings.”

Tim Baird, su­per­in­ten­dent of the K-6 Encini­tas Union School Dis­trict, said the pro­gram is part of an ef­fort to teach stu­dents the benefits of ex­er­cise and health­ful eat­ing.

“We are not teach­ing reli­gion, we are not in­struct­ing any­one in re­li­gious dogma,” Baird said. “Yoga is very main­stream.”

Un­der a three-year grant from a foun­da­tion that pro­motes Ash­tanga yoga, yoga ex­er­cises are taught in 30minute classes twice a week.

The par­ents of two stu­dents had sued, al­leg­ing that the yoga pro­gram pro­motes Hin­duism while the dis­trict dis­cour­ages any dis- play of Chris­tian­ity.

The school dis­trict hired the yoga in­struc­tors and con­trolled the cur­ricu­lum, the ap­pel­late court said. Par­ents can have their chil­dren opted out of the yoga in­struc­tion.

Broyles said one re­sult of the law­suit has been that “more and more par­ents opt their chil­dren out of the yoga classes af­ter learn­ing the truth.”

The pro­gram, he said, has chil­dren wor­ship­ing the Hindu sun god Surya, an ac­cu­sa­tion that dis­trict of­fi­cials deny.

Even in call­ing a halt to the legal fight, Broyles crit­i­cized the “de­cep­tive” ex­pla­na­tion of dis­trict of­fi­cials and their al­leged re­fusal to con­sider the con­cerns of par­ents.

Gre­gory Bull As­so­ci­ated Press

AT ENCINI­TAS’ Oliven­hain Pi­o­neer El­e­men­tary, yoga in­struc­tor Kristen McCloskey leads stu­dents in a class the dis­trict says is meant to pro­mote ex­er­cise.

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