San Dieguito rejects charges of religious discrimination

By Marsha Sutton

Senior Education Reporter

Objections to activities at four schools in the San Dieguito Union High School District have been raised in separate communications to the district by Dean Broyles, president of the Western Center for Law & Policy in Escondido.

“I’ve been contacted by a number of parents,” Broyles said. “We have four or five issues in the same district which is very extraordinary.”

Torrey Pines High School, Carmel Valley Middle School, Earl Warren Middle School and Diegueno Middle School in Encinitas have all been named by Broyles, who complained that discrimination in various forms against Christian students was occurring at the middle schools and that the high school improperly permitted the publication of sexually explicit material in its student newspaper.

In a four-page letter to Broyles dated May 20, SDUHSD superintendent Ken Noah responded to the charges, denying any wrong-doing by the district.

In the Oct. 22, 2010 issue of the TPHS student newspaper “The Falconer,” a feature section titled “(SEX)posure” included suggestive photos and contained stories about birth control vs. abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases. It also included an informal, anonymous survey of 263 TPHS students, asking them if they knew anyone with an STD and if they or any student they knew used birth control.

Broyles wrote in his letter to TPHS principal Brett Killeen that such sexually explicit material in the school’s newspaper “serves to undermine parental confidence in the school’s administration, who is supposed to serve in the role of parents (in locus parenti) while their children are in your care and trust.”

Broyles cited the 1988 Supreme Court Hazelwood case to support his position that the school has the legal authority and responsibility to intervene when necessary to protect students from inappropriate material in school-sponsored publications.

“The TPHS administration … had the complete authority to edit in part or completely deny the salacious ‘(SEX)posure’ article and photographs,” Broyles wrote.

Noah, in his letter, said the ability to exercise prior restraint to censor student publications is limited, “unless the articles are obscene, libelous, or slanderous, or if the articles incite pupils to create a clear and present danger by breaking the law, violating school rules, or disrupting the orderly operation of the school.”

“We do not believe the article in question rises to the standard under which the administration could have legally prevented its publication,” he concluded.

Broyles also objected to the survey, saying it violated section 51513 of the California Education Code, which states in part: “No test, questionnaire, survey, or examination containing any questions about the pupil’s personal beliefs or practices in sex, family life, morality, and religion … shall be administered to any pupil … unless the parent or guardian of the pupil is notified in writing … and the parent or guardian of the pupil gives written permission …”

“There can be no dispute that a survey was issued to 263 TPHS students containing questions about their personal beliefs and practices in sex, family life, morality, and religion,” Broyles wrote. “The article itself admits as much on its face.”

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