NEWS

Deadline set in families' lawsuit over homosexuality in classroom

Ian B. Murphy

Two Lexington families were back in court Wednesday to appeal the February dismissal of their federal lawsuit against Lexington and its schools.

The three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave both sides 10 days to file supplemental briefs before beginning deliberations on whether the lawsuit should see a federal trial.

The Parker and Wirthlin families’ lawyer, Robert Sinshiener, argued there are a set of facts to advance their claim that Lexington violated the families’ constitutional civil rights, specifically the right to the free practice of their religion. The two families sued the school district last year when it would not give them prior notification, or the chance to opt out, when homosexuality was to be discussed in their children’s classes.

“My clients are the parents of very young children,” Sinshiener said. “They want nothing more than to direct the moral upbringing while remaining in a diverse community, instead of segregating themselves in … a private school.”

The town’s lawyer, John Davis, argued that there was a bulk of previous casework that supports the town’s argument that the lawsuit does not belong in federal court.

“If [the use of books with homosexual content] is a problem, it’s not a problem of constitutional magnitude,” Davis said.

In February, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf dismissed the families’ lawsuit, stating that their federal claims were not appropriate, but that the remaining state law claims may be brought back to Massachusetts courts.

The suit was filed in 2006 after the Parkers’ son, Jacob, brought home a book as part of the diversity book bag from his Estabrook Elementary kindergarten class in 2005. The book, “Who’s in a Family,” showed various family types including a same-sex-headed household, as well as single parents and grandparents raising children. The Wirthlins’ son, Joey, who was then in first grade, was in class on a day that marriage was the topic. At the time, a book on a prince marrying another prince -“King and King - was read to the class.

David Parker was arrested in April 2005 after refusing to leave a meeting with the principal and a curriculum director. Parker demanded his child be removed from any discussion regarding sexuality and homosexuality, including spontaneous discussions within the classroom.