Anatomy of the breakdown of a law

A first in America: Lexington, Mass. Superintendent of Schools orders NO notice to parents on teaching homosexual relationships, even in elementary grades! 

Cites (flawed) interpretation of Mass. Parental Notification Law (which WE wrote and got passed).

How the state law designed to protect children and parents from the sexual/homosexual agenda is now used against them - through state bureaucratic subterfuge and the dishonesty and arrogance of local officials.

In 1995, Parents Rights Coalition, the forerunner of Article 8 Alliance, drafted and helped thousands of parents lobby for the Parental Notification Law. It was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Weld in 1996. It saddens and angers us that this law is being misused by public officials in such a terrible way.

1. Parent arrested in Lexington, Mass.   Governor and others react.

This outrageous situation is the result of an equally outrageous incident that took place several months earlier in Lexington.

On April 27, 2005, Lexington, MA, parent David Parker was arrested and taken to jail over his request that he be notified, and given the opt-out option, when adults discussed homosexuality or transgenderism with his 6-year-old son in Kindergarten. At issue in particular were discussions of homosexual relationships being equivalent to a child's mother and father.  Full report here.

The following day, Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney made the following statement on television, regarding the Parker incident: "We have in Massachusetts a parental notification statute specifically in matters related to human sexuality. If a parent wants to be informed of what is being taught in a classroom and wants to have their child withdrawn from the classroom for that portion of the class dealing with human sexuality, that parent has the right."

Read the law for yourself:

CHAPTER 71. PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Section 32A. Every city, town, regional school district or vocational school district implementing or maintaining curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues shall adopt a policy ensuring parental/guardian notification. Such policy shall afford parents or guardians the flexibility to exempt their children from any portion of said curriculum through written notification to the school principal. No child so exempted shall be penalized by reason of such exemption.

Said policy shall be in writing, formally adopted by the school committee as a school district policy and distributed by September first, nineteen hundred and ninety-seven, and each year thereafter to each principal in the district. A copy of each school district's policy must be sent to the department of education after adoption.

To the extent practicable, program instruction materials for said curricula shall be made reasonably accessible to parents, guardians, educators, school administrators, and others for inspection and review.

The department of education shall promulgate regulations for adjudicatory proceedings to resolve any and all disputes arising under this section.

The incident was reported extensively in the local media, and also made national news. Parents in Lexington and elsewhere expressed outrage.

2. Superintendent announces that no notice will be given to parents on teaching about homosexual relationships in school.

On September 20, 2005, in a move unprecedented in America, Lexington superintendent Paul Ash issued a statement that the town will not give parents the right of notification about teaching about homosexual relationships in the schools. This was subsequently published in the local newspaper.

What does the law say schools have to do?
By Paul Ash
Superintendent of Schools, Lexington, MA
Published in the Lexington Minuteman
Thursday, September 22, 2005

Over the summer, I have received a number of questions about implementation of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 71, Section 32A ("Section 32A"). These questions relate to the following provision:

Every city, town, regional school district or vocational school district implementing or maintaining curriculum which primarily involves human sexual education or human sexual issues shall adopt a policy ensuring parental/guardian notification. Such policy shall afford parents or guardians the flexibility to exempt their children from any portion of said curriculum through written notification to the school principal.

[Article 8 Note: The actual statute language says "human sexuality issues" not "human sexual issues."]

In Lexington, curriculum identified by the statute generally begins at the fifth-grade level. LPS [Lexington Public Schools] has, of course, adopted a policy implementing Section 32A, and school staff routinely provide parents with notice and the flexibility to "opt out" of this curriculum.

Recently, questions have been raised as to whether school staff also has an obligation to notify parents and allow "opt out" of other school-based activities, particularly in the elementary grades. For example, some parents have requested they be notified whenever their child has access to any material, conversation, or activity that acknowledges differences in sexual orientation, including any reference to families with same-gender parents.

Since elementary curriculum often elicits discussion of family experiences, such references certainly may occur. In addition, our schools routinely provide students with access to materials, activities, and discussions that recognize diversity. This access is designed to assist us in our goal of maintaining an appropriate and respectful educational environment for all students. As required by law and LPS policy, this environment must be free of discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin and disability.

The Massachusetts Department of Education, which is responsible for administering Section 32A, has explained that activities and materials designed to promote tolerance and respect for individuals, including recognition of differences in sexual orientation "without further instruction on the physical and sexual implications" do not trigger the notice and opt out provisions of Section 32A. Under this standard, staff has no obligation to notify parents of discussions, activities, or materials that simply reference same-gender parents or that otherwise recognize the existence of differences in sexual orientation. Accordingly, I expect teachers to continue to allow children access to such activities and materials to the extent appropriate to children's ages, to district goals of respecting diversity, and to the curriculum.

As this new school year begins, I look forward to working with the Lexington community to provide a positive educational environment for all students.

Click here for Adobe Acrobat version of press release and newspaper article.

Ash stated that per his order, "staff has no obligation to notify parents of discussions, activities, or materials that simply reference same-gender parents or that otherwise recognize the existence of differences in sexual orientation." In other words, homosexual relationships ("same-gender parents") taught to kids do not need parental notification. This appears to be a direct contradiction to Gov. Romney's earlier statement to the public.

He also uses weasel words: "I expect teachers to continue to allow children access to such activities and materials to the extent appropriate to children's ages, to district goals of respecting diversity, and to the curriculum."

Just who decides what is appropriate to children's ages? Who decides what the goals respecting "diversity" should be? In Ash's mind, it's the school bureaucrats, not parents, who make these decisions for children!

3. Superintendent seeks official opinion from Department of Education on application of parental notification law to use as argument.

To come to this conclusion, Ash cited a previous decision by the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE). We called Ash's office and had them fax us their document. We also called the Dept. of Education, and they faxed us the same document.

The current law leaves it up to the DOE to have regulations in place to adjudicate issues between parents and school systems regarding this law. But in fact, these regulations act as logjams to wear parents down. What actually happens is that parents beg the Department, by letters or in person, to force the schools to apply the law properly. Commissioner Driscoll looks over the evidence and personally acts as judge and jury.

Unfortunately, DOE Commissioner David Driscoll is not exactly unbiased on this issue. Driscoll is a long-time enthusiastic supporter of homosexual programs in the public schools. He has cooperated with and encouraged GLSEN and the Governor's Commission for Gay and Lesbian Youth on extra-curricular homosexual events for children.

Over the last few years, Driscoll and the DOE have steadily used decisions to erode the law, in letter and spirit, by changing the meaning of the English language. Thus, the discussion of homosexuality by itself is no longer a "sexual orientation issue." It is instead considered an issue of tolerance, respect, civil rights, or even safety. This is exactly the ammunition that schools and homosexual activists have needed to freely circumvent the law and toss aside its intent.

4. Superintendent uses flawed interpretation of already flawed DOE decision.

So when Ash asked for advice, the Department sent Lexington a copy of a previous decision from July 26, 2004. It was in the form of a letter Driscoll sent to a mother and father in Bedford, who had complained about a number of issues.

(We spoke to the mother, and she said that working with the DOE was a horrendous experience, emotionally draining, and she got no satisfaction at all from them.)

In his article, Ash referred to language from the following portion of Driscoll's letter, which discusses a middle school event:

The first issue raised by you for review is the skit portraying a homosexual student that was part of a November 24, 2003 mandatory school-wide assembly. As noted above, G.L. c. 71, sec. 32A requires each school committee to adopt and publish a policy ensuring that parents are notified about, and permitted to exempt their children from, any "curriculum that primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues." The Department has interpreted this phase to apply to courses, school assemblies, or other instructional activities and programs that students are scheduled to attend during the school day, and that focus on human sexual education, the biological mechanics of human reproduction and sexual development, or human sexuality issues.

Although the skits performed at the school-wide assembly held on November 24, 2003 may be considered "curricula" for the purpose of G.L. c. 71, sec. 32A, since attendance at the assembly was mandatory and the skits were instructional in nature, they were not "curricul[a] that primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues." The assembly was part of a "Day of Respect," the purpose of which, according to the school, was to promote tolerance and respect for every student, including students, such as gay and lesbian students and disabled students, who are often viewed as different by other students. Thus, the purpose of the skits was to provide instruction on tolerance, not issues of human sexuality. The skit at issue dealt with social obstacles that homosexual students may face at school. There was no evidence, and you do not suggest, that the skit included direct discussion of human sexuality issues and/or, specifically, homosexual relationships. The mere reference to the fact of homosexuality or the portrayal of a homosexual student, without further instruction or discussion of the physical and sexual implications of homosexuality, does not constitute instruction about "the biological mechanics of human reproduction and sexual development, or human sexuality issues." Based on these facts, I conclude that the skit did not require parental notification under G.L. c. 71, sec. 32A.

Notice that Driscoll shamelessly uses the "tolerance and respect" excuse to dismiss the parents' concerns and twist the meaning and intent of the law.

But also notice that Driscoll still states that if the skit had portrayed "homosexual relationships," then his decision not to require notification would not apply. Paul Ash ignores this. Clearly, a same-sex "couple" constitutes a homosexual relationship. But Ash is so intent on pushing the agenda on Lexington's children that he decides not to let this "detail" get in his way.

5. And then there's the larger issue.

Suppose there were no Parental Notification Law to bicker about? In a normal society, there shouldn't be a need for one. The sad and outrageous truth is that we have a government and school officials in Massachusetts who are extremely anti-parent, anti-religious radicals -- who think nothing of using kids' minds as their own personal sandbox for social experiments.

In our opinion, Paul Ash is a symbol of the most dangerous aspect of the American education system.

Dr. Paul Ash, Superintendent
Lexington Public Schools
1557 Massachusetts Ave.
Lexington, MA 02420
781-861-2550
email:   pash@sch.ci.lexington.ma.us