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Judicial activism no better from the right

By Trevor Bothwell
web posted December 5, 2005

A few weeks ago, Townhall.com blogger Laura Hollis shared a suggestion most parents should heed: Get your children out of government schools.

Ms. Hollis was upset over a recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that parents "have no constitutional right ... to prevent a public school from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so."

So what prompted parents to sue the Palmdale School District in California ? According to Hollis:

In Fields v. Palmdale School District, parents sued after discovering that their primary school-aged children had been administered a questionnaire that asked them, amongst other things, how frequently they had, "touched their private parts too much," "thought about having sex" or "thought about touching other people’s private parts."

I don't know about you, but if my nine-year-old was given a survey of this nature in school, I'd probably be doing a little "touching" of my own -- and it would probably involve the neck of the principal or curriculum supervisor who authorized such inappropriate trash. But while this episode absolutely disgusts me, I believe that the court actually got this one right.

I know, I know. This is also the court that ruled absurdly that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. But even if this ruling was fueled more by the judges' collective desire to allow this type of behavior in our public schools than it was to respect the scope of the Constitution, it nevertheless remains that there is nothing in the Constitution discussing who is allowed to teach our children about sex and how it must be done.

Public school overreaches like this little sex survey are maddening to most people who at least want to protect what little innocence our kids are allowed to retain anymore. But while I gather that Ms. Hollis would have preferred to see the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs, her suggestion to vote with our feet and remove our kids from such draconian environments altogether is the true solution to public school insanity.

This type of hypersexualization has been a mainstay in public schools for years now. The books Daddy's Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies, which seek to convince impressionable tykes of the virtues of homosexuality, have been required reading in many first- and second-grade classrooms around the country for over a decade.

In other words, we're never going to be totally happy with everything our public schools teach -- just like some people aren't happy they can't shout in libraries, though the rule prohibiting such behavior is hardly an abrogation of the right to free speech or equal protection.

What we should do to combat public nuisances is raise the issues in the court of public opinion -- by starting grassroots organizations protesting such misuse of our tax dollars; by holding town hall meetings to garner support for our positions; and by raising awareness in the press and debating elected officials -- or even better, voting said representatives out of office when they don't conform to our demands. The problem, however, is that public schools are statist by their very nature. And too often many of us simply are being outworked by those on the Left who endorse the socialist underpinnings of our schools.

Judicial activism tends to occur predominantly from the left, but it's no better or more appropriate from the right. Decisions that flout the Constitution find us no better off as a society just because we happen to prefer the outcome. Have we ever stopped to think that perhaps the reason our judiciary seems to exert so much domain over us is because it's often the first branch of government to which we turn to solve problems we should be solving ourselves?

Effecting democratic social change takes time, and if parents don't like their kids' public schools they have every right to yank them out and home school them, send them to private or parochial schools, or advocate on behalf of school choice programs, all of which would most significantly reign in so much of this public school idiocy in the first place.

It's important to protect our children. But if we don't protect the Constitution, there's only so much we'll be able to do for them anyhow. In the end, the power to influence our kids resides in us, not the courts.

Trevor Bothwell is a contributing writer to Democracy Project. He can be contacted at bothwelltj@yahoo.com. ©2005 Trevor Bothwell

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