Sex in the Ninth Circuit

&#8220There is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children.&#8221

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has previously ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional, has again thrust a dagger into the heart of the American way of life — and has this time attacked the very institution which has kept the foundation of this country secure — the family.

Fields v. Palmdale School Dist., — F.3d– (9th Cir. 2005), was decided today by the court. In that case, parents sued the Palmdale School District for giving a survey, which included ten questions of a sexual nature, to students between the ages of seven and ten.

The School District sent a note home to parents asking for parental consent to engage their children in a survey of early trauma. The survey was prepared by Kristi Seymour, a volunteer “mental health counselor” at Mesquite Elementary School while she was enrolled in a master’s degree program at the California School of Professional Psychology. The School District, collaborating with the School of Psychology and Seymour, developed and administered the questionnaire to first, third, and fifth grade students. While parents were informed that the survey would cover “baseline . . . exposure to early trauma (for example, violence),” it specifically did not mention sex. In fact, the survey asked seven year olds to “rate the following activities” among which were these:

8. Touching my private parts too much
17. Thinking about having sex
22. Thinking about touching other people’s private parts
23. Thinking about sex when I don’t want to
26. Washing myself because I feel dirty on the inside

34. Not trusting people because they might want sex
40. Getting scared or upset when I think about sex
44. Having sex feelings in my body
47. Can’t stop thinking about sex
54. Getting upset when people talk about sex

Seven year olds were asked these questions. The parents of the children learned of the survey questions when their children started telling them about the survey. Horrified, the parents complained to the school, arguing that had they know the true nature of the survey, they would have never offered their consent. The school district rebuffed the parents, and the parents sued.

The trial court rejected the parents arguments and today, in stunning language, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the rejection. In fact, the Ninth Circuit, in its opinion stated

The district court dismissed the federal causes of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the state claims without prejudice to their right to re-file in state court. We agree, and hold that there is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children, either independent of their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children or encompassed by it. We also hold that parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students.

Interestingly, while the court ruled that parents have no “right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which children might be exposed,” the public schools, according to the Ninth Circuit, can only expose children to sex. Exposing children to prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance would indoctrinate the children unfairly.

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Erick Erickson

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6 Comments

  • This is such a sille and unnecessary ruling. They could have easily found for the parents by finding the consent ineffective.

  • As a member of an Institutional review board (IRB) a major research university–this should have never flown in the first place. In order to give assent, the parents should have received the survey in its entirety. This was a major blunder of the California School of Professional Psychology…One that could cost them their certification with Health and Human Services.

    I will dig into this one and contact the CSPP IRB. The parents have every right to sue the University in this case, too.

  • I AM A PARENT OF ONE OF THE CHILDREN KRISTI WAS HELPING. I WASN’T SENT A PERMISSION SLIP FOR MY SON, BUT I WOULD HAVE SIGNED IT, AND THESE QUESTIONS WOULD NOT HAVE BOTHERED HIM OR ME. I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS HAS GONE ON SO LONG. MY SON WAS HELPED SO MUCH FROM KRISTY AND WILL NOT SEE ANOTHER COUNSELOR SINCE KRISTI WAS TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM. HE HAS LOST TRUST IN A COUNSELING SYSTEM WHICH LEFT HIM ALONE WITH NO EXPLANATION. ON THE SUBJECT OF THE QUESTIONAIRE, THESE KIDS HEAR WORSE (MUCH,MUCH WORSE) FROM OTHER STUDENTS THEN THAT QUESRIONAIRE. I WORK AT AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

  • This decision was correct and important because it will help stop parents from pushing their personal beliefs onto all other students in the future whether those students share those beliefs or not. For example, they may want to have intelligent design included in classrooms, prayer in school, or teaching abstinence instead of true sexual education such as use of protection. Thank you 9th circuit for ensuring the rights of students are not trampled by over zealous parents.

  • This ruling has nothing to do with parents changing school curriculum for future students. These parents never asked that the school be forced to stop giving this survey, only that they be properly notified of what their children were going to be exposed to. Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the rogue 9th circuit failing to interpret the law, and enforcing their own personal views. Whether you like it or not, parents DO have the right to know what their children are learning, and they ARE the sole determiners of what’s best for their own children. I’ll add this to the ever increasing list of reasons my daughter will never set foot in a government school.