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