Anti-Gay Activist David Parker Loses Appeal
February 1st, 2008
David Parker is a cause célèbre for anti-gay activists.
They love to claim that he was arrested protecting his child from a “homosexual curriculum” in his kindergarten class. Here’s the real story:
In January 2005, Jacob Parker brought home a diversity book bag from his kindergarten. Included in the bag was books about other cultures and traditions, food recipes, and a book called Who’s in a Family. The illustrations included various family constructions: single parents, mom-dad-kids, grandparents, mixed-race families, and same-sex parents.
David Parker, his father, decided that young Jacob was entitled to ignorance of the existence of same-sex headed families. He set out to change school policy so that his child not be exposed to that fact. He extended his demands to include any discussion of same-sex parenting, regardless of the context or setting – including any conversations of children of gay or lesbian parents.
Because the school district has a large number of same-sex families, many with children attending the school, the administration deemed Parker’s request to be nearly impossible.
This resulted in a string of emails and eventually Parker showed up in the administrative offices and refused to leave until his demands were met. At the end of the day, police were called and, when Parker refused the police requests to leave, he was arrested for trespassing.
Dr. Paul Ash, superintendent of Lexington Public Schools, said the school tried to be accommodating.
“The school department said, ‘Look, we’ll work with you, but we cannot assure you what a child is going to say and that we can immediately stop a discussion that you find objectionable,’” said Ash. “One of the central units in kindergarten is the discussion of families and we show families of all different types.” Ash says the discussions “ended up in an irreconcilable difference.”
In June 2006, the Parkers sued the school in federal court for civil right violations.
They were joined by the Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, parents of a second grader in the same district. On a day in which the school discussed marriage, a teacher read King and King, a book in which a prince doesn’t fall for a princess but for another prince instead. Although marriage laws in Massachusetts include same-sex couples, the Wirthlins believe that such marriages should be excluded from discussion about marriages in the classroom.
A few days after filing their suit, David Parker’s credibility came under question. He spread a story that his child, Jacob, was beaten by students for David Parker’s anti-gay stance and suggested that school teachers or the administration were behind the beating.
After much press in the anti-gay conservative Christian media, the facts were released. It turned out to be nothing greater than a schoolyard scuffle over who sat next to whom in the cafeteria.
In February 2007, U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf dismissed the lawsuit.
In his 38-page decision, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of US District Court said that under the US Constitution, public schools are “entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.”
“Diversity is a hallmark of our nation,” he said.
The Parkers and Wirthlins appealed the decision. Yesterday the three judge appeals panel unanimously upheld Judge Wolf’s decision.
“Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them,” the court said in its ruling.
As we have seen recently, anti-gay activists object not only to any positions taken publicly that are favorable to gay individuals and couples, but to even the acknowledgment of their existence. The court addressed this issue.
Writing for the Appeals Court, Judge Sandra L. Lynch said the parents did not have the legal right “to be free from any reference in public elementary schools to the existence of families in which the parents are of different gender combinations,” according to the ADL statement.
The Parkers and their attorneys are preparing to take the case to the US Supreme Court.