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Enforcing Tolerance

In February 2007 Massachusetts federal judge Mark L. Wolf dismissed a lawsuit brought by two sets of parents, David and Tonya Parker and Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, whose children attend Estabrook Elementary School in Lexington. The parents’ suit claimed that the school violated state law by indoctrinating their children in the homosexual lifestyle. The problems began in 2005 when the Parkers’ kindergartner brought home some school-issued “optional reading material” in a “Diversity Book Bag,” that included a book titled Who’s in a Family? which “depicted at least two households led by homosexual partners,” according to WorldNetDaily.com (Feb. 1, 2008). The Wirthlins decided to sue when their second-grader was read the book King and King during class time, a story about two princes who fall in love and get married. (For more on the background of this story, see our New Oxford Note “‘Diversity Is the Hallmark of Our Nation,'” Jul.-Aug. 2007.) But Judge Wolf ruled that, under the U.S. Constitution, public schools are “entitled” to teach a­bout homosexuality in a positive way because it is “reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged citizens in our democracy.”

Unsatisfied with Wolf’s ruling, the Parkers and Wirthlins brought their case before the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston. At the December 2007 hearing, Neil Tasser, a lawyer with Denner Pelligrino LLP, the Boston law firm representing the parents, said, “The parents have never tried to suggest what the school can or cannot teach. All they’re seeking is the right to opt out.” That right had been denied them by Judge Wolf, a Reagan appointee, who wrote that “an exodus from class when issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage are to be discussed could send the message that gays, lesbians, and the children of same-sex parents are inferior and, therefore, have a damaging effect on those students.”

Nima Eshgi, one of the attorneys for the school, argued at the December hearing that public schools should “teach tolerance at an early age, inculcate values, serve as a marketplace of ideas and protect the rights of students to receive information.”

According to Gail Besse, writing in the National Catholic Register (Dec. 16, 2007), the Parkers “have spent their life savings” defending their right to prevent their son from being indoctrinated in the homosexual lifestyle at Estabrook Elementary.

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