This morning, a good chunk of New England is abuzz about this story out of Lexington, MA. It seems that one David Parker didn't approve of his school touching on homosexual issues in the classroom, in particular the classroom of his kindergartener son. He had several discussions with the school, going around and around until finally demanding that they notify him when such matters were to be discussed in his son's class. The school hemmed and hawed, but eventually agreed.
But last week, the class read a book called "Who's In A Family," and one of the families mentioned was a little girl who lived with her mommy and mommy's "partner." Mr. Parker demanded a meeting with school officials. When at the conclusion of the meeting he was still unsatisfied, so he refused to leave. They called the cops, and Mr. Parker spent the night in jail for trespassing.
Now, nearly everyone is arguing about the appropriateness of the material. Some say that it's indoctrinating children to accept values that their parents reject, while others say they're teaching the children that such situations exist and how to be tolerant of them. It's getting hot and heavy around the whole issue.
And in the meantime, what I think is the bigger issue is getting ignored. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Parker's beliefs, the fundamental question is this: are his demands that he be notified about what material is being taught to his son about a clearly controversial issue unreasonable?
I think not. In these days, whole hosts of social problems can be attributed to parental disinvolvement in their children. Here is a father who is so involved with his son getting what he considers a proper education and upbringing that he's willing to go to jail to fight for it. Right or wrong, he certainly has the right to make his stand.
And I really can't blame the schools too much. For too long, they've taken on more and more of the responsibilities that parents have abrogated over the years. It's understandable that some of them might view those additional obligations as their natural right, and feel that a parent who is intruding into "their" turf is in the wrong.
But the parent isn't. The school is. And they need to wake up to that fact damned fast. They are entrusted with the EDUCATION of our children, not their GUARDIANSHIP. "In loco parentis" is a very limited concept, and in no way should be construed to be superior to parental rights. If they want to override a parent's wishes in regards to a child, they better be ready to go to court -- not simply wave regulations around and call up the cops to back them up.
Quibble if you wish with Mr. Parker's beliefs, but don't challenge his right to possess them -- and act on them. We need more parents who feel as protective of their children as he does.