Tag Archives: Encinitas Union School District

YES!!! Court Victory for Encinitas Yoga Program

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YES!!! Court Victory for Encinitas Yoga Program

Dear YES! Families:

Victory, at last…. Again!!  Today the Court of Appeal released its opinion in Sedlock v. Baird.  As expected, the opinion fully affirms the 2013 trial court ruling in favor of YES! and EUSD.  Simply put, the court confirmed that the EUSD yoga program is not religious and does not violate the Constitution.

The full Court ruling is available here.

Coast Law Group continues to represent YES! on a pro bono basis.  Lead trial attorney Dave Peck commented “This ruling is exactly what we expected. The EUSD yoga program has never been religious. Those who claim otherwise have a warped perspective and their own religious agenda. 99% of the community loves the program and students, teachers, parents and administrators consistently rave about it.  I’m pleased the Court again got it right and hope this is the end of the controversy.”

While the yoga opponents will have an opportunity to petition the California Supreme Court for a review of today’s decision, two strong rulings in our favor make further judicial review unlikely.

We hope you and your families are enjoying spring break – your students’ yoga program will be waiting when they return to school.

Thank you, as always, for your warm wishes and continual support.  Coast Law Group has been honored to represent you in this fight.

~ ~ ~

Want more?

Here’s a favorite post from California Appellate Report on the ruling: “I can think of a plethora of religiously-backed — but presently “secular” — parts of public schools that have a much deeper connection with religion than the challenged yoga program here.”

NBC 7 San Diego: New in Yoga Legal Battle: Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Encinitas School District

KPBS: Ruling: Yoga Can Continue In Encinitas Schools

10 News San Diego: Ruling: Yoga can continue in Encinitas schools

Fox 5 San Diego: Appeals court rules yoga can continue in Encinitas schools

U-T San Diego: Appeals court upholds school yoga

A brief excerpt summarizing the 37-page ruling is below:

CourtRulingExcerpt

Yoga Lawsuit: Appeal Update

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Dear YES! Families –

How time flies! School is nearly out, the county fair is underway and summer is once again around the corner.

This time last year we were wrapping up the yoga trial and preparing to give closing arguments. We now find ourselves responding to the appeal filed by the yoga opponents. Our brief is due mid-August so there is plenty of work to be done in the coming months.

While we remain confident our victory will be upheld by the appellate court, the battle has only intensified. Dean Broyles, the Sedlocks’ attorney, continues to solicit donations and spread his anti-yoga conspiracy theories at every opportunity. His original appellate brief, at a whopping 63 pages, was so bloated that the court refused to accept it without significant edits.

In addition to your ongoing support, YES! has been fortunate to receive several offers of assistance from legal professionals. After careful evaluation, we have elected to team up with appellate superstar M.C. Sungaila whose track record of success speaks for itself. Coast Law Group and Snell & Wilmer, Ms. Sungaila’s firm, will continue to represent YES! on a pro bono basis.

We wish you and your families a fun and safe summer. We’ll keep you posted.

Best,

Dave Peck
Coast Law Group LLP

P.S. You may have heard how LeBron James recently credited yoga with improving his performance in the NBA Finals. The NFL also recently released a great video championing the benefits of yoga.

Encinitas yoga appeal

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Dear YES! Families –

It’s now official…. last week attorney Dean Broyles filed a Notice of Appeal in the EUSD yoga case.  The appellate process will run well into 2014 and we will keep you updated along the way.  For a glimpse of the impassioned irrationality which has gripped the yoga opponents, I share with you this excerpt from an email sent to members of the EUSD school board by an anti-yoga parent:

“I just returned from the presentation by Dean Broyles and was absolutely convicted and astonished at how we as Christians are being blinded by Satan.

“Yoga is without any question anti-Christ and I was thinking of you during the entire presentation.

“We heard a mother who is at a school where yoga is now offered at recess to any child who wants it, and she described children on field trips, in buses and on the playground performing the yoga positions on their own. This is what I talked about…indoctrinating and opening an evil spiritual world that public schools are and should be prohibited from forcing on these innocent defenseless children!

“It is a blatant violation of their innocence to protect them from religious indoctrination and a blatant violation of our Constitution!

“. . . I earnestly pray that you [school board members] will discuss this e-mail together and pray about it!!!

“I honestly  fear for your salvation, and in no way am I placing myself as judge, but after learning what was just presented I know that the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob will be holding to account anyone who is held responsible for leading innocent children astray!

“It is certain that this yoga program is absolutely doing that!”

There’s truly no point  in arguing with these folks.  Many are so blinded by fear that they fail to see the irony in their position.  They view the U.S. Constitution as a Christian document and urge the school board to be guided by religious beliefs – so long as those beliefs align with their own.

Fortunately, most members of our community are not so closed-minded.  YES! families include people of all faiths, including many devout Christians who recognize that the EUSD yoga program is exercise – and nothing more.  Students stretching on busses and playgrounds should be viewed as a good thing…. not as evidence of an evil agenda at work.  No kids are being led astray.

We appreciate your ongoing support.

–          Dave

UPDATE November 6:

Dear YES! families –

Several of you have posed a very good question:  In order to end the yoga debate why doesn’t EUSD simply change the name of the fitness program from “yoga” to something else, like “stretching”?  That would seem to be a perfectly reasonable compromise…. but not to Mr. Broyles.

In fact, Broyles has argued that if EUSD were to change the name it would simply be an act of “camouflage” designed to conceal the true Hindu agenda at work.  Broyles believes such “camouflage” is the among the District’s most sinister tactics as it fools folks into believing that acts are innocuous when they actually have religious significance.  In support of such position, Broyles has pointed to the District’s reference to a sitting position known as “criss-cross applesauce”.  [We called it by the less politically-correct name “Indian style” when I was a kid.]  Broyles claims EUSD engages in “camouflage” when it uses such a kid-friendly term for what is actually yoga’s lotus position.

As mentioned in our last post, there’s no point arguing with these folks.  Logic and reason are no match for religious zealotry.

We’ll be in touch.

–          Dave

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Encinitas Schools Court Ruling: Let the Kids do Yoga!

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Dear YES! Families –

WE WON!!

This morning Judge Meyer issued his ruling denying the plaintiffs’ request that EUSD “suspend its unconstitutional religiously based physical education program.”  In finding in favor of YES! and the school district, the judge determined that the EUSD yoga program does not endorse or inhibit any religion.  The program is thus in line with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  From both a legal and common sense perspective, the judge got it right.

Again, thank you so very much for your overwhelming support throughout this battle.  If plaintiffs are foolhardy enough to appeal, as I suspect they may be, we will certainly continue the fight.  Today, however, our kids are the winners.

Coast Law Group wishes you and your families a fantastic 4th of July.

Congratulations,

Dave

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Recent media:
Huffington Post

Yoga As Religion Factors Into Ruling On Teaching Classes In Encinitas Public Schools
July 1, 2013

Los Angeles Times
Are school yoga instructors teaching religion? Judge to rule
July 1, 2013

10News.com
Ruling expected in yoga lawsuit at Encinitas Union School District
July 1, 2013

Yoga Media Roundup

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U-T San Diego
Yoga trial extended another day
June 25, 2013

Dean Broyles, who represents parents in the Encinitas Union School District opposed to the classes, spent nearly five hours on Tuesday wrapping up his clients’ case.

Read More

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The Coast News
Attorney against school yoga program delivers closing arguments
June 25, 2013

On Monday, Broyles said his closing argument would take two hours, but his remarks stretched on over five hours.

Both parties agreed that Meyer, rather than a jury, will decide on whether the program is legal. He indicated he might rule on the case on Thursday.

Read More

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KPBS.org
Closing Arguments Begin In Encinitas School Yoga Trial
June 26, 2013

In his closing argument, Broyles said district efforts to remove possibly religious language from classes was confirmation that religion was there in the first place.

“The names of some of the poses were changed,” he said. “Big deal. They stopped using some of the Sanskrit terms. Big deal. They stopped posting the Ashtanga tree on the wall. While that was concerning, it doesn’t fundamentally change what they taught.”

Read More

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NBC Southern California
Parents Suing School Claim Yoga Classes Go Against First, Second Commandments
June 25, 2013
District officials said before the program started, instructors removed images of yoga Sanskrit and changed the names of poses. But Monday plaintiffs argued that this wasn’t the case.

“We expressed our concern again after hearing about our 7-year-old daughter at class talking about Sanskrit names for her limbs that she was taught in school,” said Stephen Sedlock, who, along with his wife, is suing the school district.

Read More

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CBS 8 San Diego
Final arguments in case against yoga in North County schools
June 25, 2013

David Miyashiro, the district’s assistant superintendent for education, said he instituted a yoga program at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School three years ago when he filled in for a principal on maternity leave. He said the school needed another enrichment program, and it proved popular with the kids.

“It was active, engaging,” Miyashiro said. “The kids came home and talked about it.”

Read More

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Fox 5 San Diego
Trial on school yoga classes resumes
June 24, 2013

Superintendent Timothy Baird testified at trial that parents are allowed to opt out of yoga, but the children of those who do will receive less PE time than participating students. However, they will still receive at least the state-required minimum of PE minutes, he said.

Read more

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NBC San Diego
Parents Testify in Encinitas Yoga Class Trial
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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TheState.com
Is yoga instruction religious? San Diego court case may decide
June 25, 2013

In an elementary school classroom with an American flag draped over one wall, a couple dozen students rose to standing positions. Then they shifted into poses called “volcano part one,” “silent gorilla,” and “rag doll.”

Some students may not realize it, but the semiweekly, half-hour course might be gone by the time they return in the fall.

In this upscale, seaside suburb just north of San Diego, parents have filed a lawsuit arguing the Encinitas Union School District should do away with the yoga elective because the discipline is inherently religious, and the teaching of it in the public schools violates the First Amendment.

Read more
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KUSI.com
Closing Arguments in Case Set for Tuesday
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Closing arguments are scheduled today in the case of a couple who sued the Encinitas Union School District to stop yoga instruction, which they contend has religious overtones.

In the final day of testimony Monday, an elementary school principal in the district testified that she saw no religious overtones in yoga classes taught on her campus.

Read More and view video

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Encinitas Patch
Encinitas School Yoga Trial to Resume

Monday, June 24, 2013

Parents object to “religious nature” of yoga instruction in public schools.

Trial was set to resume Monday in the case of a couple who sued the Encinitas Union School District to stop yoga instruction, which they contend has religious overtones.

The lawsuit was filed by the National Center for Law and Policy on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children attend one of the district’s nine schools. On its website, the nonprofit Christian-based center said it focuses on the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, parental rights and other civil liberties.

Read More

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The Coast News
Architect of school yoga program testifies
June 24, 2013

ENCINITAS — A lawsuit calling for the end of school yoga classes on the basis that they violate the separation of church and state resumed in court Monday. The yoga program’s architect, the last witness in the trial, took the stand.

David Miyashiro, assistant superintendent of education services for the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD), crafted the yoga program less than a year ago with input from a curriculum writer…

Miyashiro testified that the grant agreement between the foundation and EUSD initially specified that the Jois Foundation train the yoga teachers. But in reality, the Jois Foundation didn’t coach the 10 instructors who were ultimately hired. He added the Jois Foundation had little influence over the curriculum.

Read More

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10 News San Diego
Testimony ends in school yoga case: Encinitas Union School District sued over yoga classes
Monday, June 24, 2013

Couple sues, wants classes banned

ENCINITAS, Calif. – Testimony concluded Monday in the case of a couple who sued the Encinitas Union School District to stop yoga instruction, which they contend has religious overtones.

The lawsuit was filed by the National Center for Law and Policy on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children attend one of the district’s nine schools. On its website, the nonprofit Christianity-based center said its focuses on the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, parental rights and other civil liberties.

The plaintiffs contend that Ashtanga yoga is religious in nature, and that opting out costs students physical education time. They are not seeking any money, only an end to the yoga program.

Read More

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U-T San Diego
Encinitas Yoga Case Debate with David Peck
Friday, June 19, 2013

6 minute video interview available here:

http://www.utsandiego.com/video/play/57315/

Encinitas Yoga Trial Update!

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Trial resumed this morning after a month delay due to scheduling issues, and will conclude tomorrow with closing arguments by the attorneys for the Sedlocks, the School District, and YES! Yoga for Encinitas Students.
 
The Judge has indicated he will issue a bench ruling Wednesday morning.
 
We will update further when we have more information!

Yoga trial: Dispatch from the Front Lines

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Yoga trial: Dispatch from the Front Lines

Three days of trial have now been completed in the yoga lawsuit Sedlock v. Baird, et. al.  And it’s not over yet.  While the parties had agreed this would be a two day trial, the plaintiffs’ case, as presented by attorney Dean Broyles, has dragged on and on.  Due to pre-planned vacation and trial schedules, the court has ordered a month-long hiatus in the proceedings.  Trial will resume on Monday, June 24 with testimony from the Sedlocks and EUSD assistant superintendent Dr. David Miyashiro.  Closing arguments will then proceed on Tuesday, June 25.  Judge Meyer has indicated that closing arguments will be critical to his decision and he may even render a preliminary decision from the bench that day.  CLG partner Dave Peck, who has been actively litigating the case on behalf of YES!, provides the following report:

DISPATCH FROM THE FRONT LINES:

Dear YES! Families:  First and foremost, thank you so very much for your support of the EUSD yoga program and our efforts to protect it.  Superintendent Baird, who has been at my side at counsel table throughout the trial, shares his gratitude to YES! for joining the fight.  And what a fight it’s been…..

Many folks scoffed at the notion of this lawsuit and predicted it would be quickly tossed out of court.  While such sentiments are understandable, most people seem to have underestimated plaintiffs’ resolve.  Mr. Broyles, his clients and other yoga opponents have devoted significant resources to this case.  For them, it’s a battle of good versus evil.  Right versus wrong.  They view us yoga supporters as naïve at best, blasphemous at worst.  During a break in the proceedings Jennifer Sedlock even referred to me as “the enemy” while passing in the court hallway.

Like many conspiracy-theorists, plaintiffs see a hidden and evil agenda at work in the school district.  They contend the overwhelming majority of us parents are just too blind to see it.  We naively view yoga as just a great exercise program for our kids.  That intended perception, in the words of plaintiffs’ retained religion expert Dr. Candy Brown, is just “camouflage.”  For example, changing the names of the yoga poses to kid-friendly terms is a camouflage tactic according to Dr. Brown.  She thus accused the school district of being complicit in such camouflage tactics.

According to Dr. Brown, the Jois Foundation is using EUSD yoga instructors as “foot soldiers” in furtherance of its Hindu agenda.  These instructors are being used, whether they know it or not, to make yoga look like a benign exercise.  Once kids/families buy-in to the physical and mental  benefits, and are thus “hooked” on the program, they will become vulnerable to religious indoctrination in more advanced yoga classes in their later years.  Dr. Brown even agreed with Judge Meyer when he commented that it sounded like she was describing yoga as a “gateway drug.”

I had the opportunity to vigorously cross-examine Dr. Brown.  She tended to avoid direct questions and gave many long-winded, esoteric responses.  Judge Meyer noted that Dr. Brown, who has a book on religion coming out this summer, seemed to be relishing her moment in the spotlight.  Her testimony was indeed akin to a doctorate level university lecture.

Dr. Brown testified that, in addition to yoga, she believes karate, tae kwon do (an Olympic sport), acupuncture and chiropractic care are each religious practices.  Citing a variety of suspect evidence, Dr. Brown opined that the EUSD yoga program is “pervasively religious” even though concepts of religion, spirituality, devotion, belief, etc. are not discussed in the classes.  In fact, she claimed that by stripping the program of all conspicuous religious content the district was engaging in further “camouflage” of the true Hindu agenda.  Even just posing one’s body in certain positions – without intent, words or conscious thought – constitutes religious practice according to Dr. Brown.  The inference was that these yoga poses have some magical, transformative qualities.  Importantly, there has been no evidence that anyone in the district believes the poses are supernatural and the kids are certainly not being taught such nonsense.

Plaintiffs have also made much ado about the Jois Foundation and its promotion of health and wellness.  Claiming the foundation is a thinly-veiled vehicle for Hinduism, Mr. Broyles and Dr. Brown suggested something sinister is at work in the district partnering with this organization.  As we have pointed out, however, the district has also partnered with the YMCA and Leichtag Foundation, organizations which respectively promote Christian and Jewish values.  While we ALL agree that religion has no place in the public schools, the mere fact that program funding is received from religiously-affiliated organizations has never been held unconstitutional.  In the eyes of the law it’s the programs which matter, not their funding sources.  (And to be clear, there is no evidence that the Jois Foundation seeks to promote some uniquely Hindu values.)

The character development portions of the health and wellness curriculum have also been scrutinized, with plaintiffs questioning why such things are being taught in P.E.  The suggestion, of course, is that such character teachings must have a religious slant.  Jen Brown, the EUSD yoga instructor at Capri (who was an excellent witness for our defense), pulled the rug out from under such arguments.  She explained at length how she occasionally teaches kids about kindness, cleanliness (“We wash our hands before we eat”) and empathy (“How would you feel if something mean was said about you?”).  In response to my questioning, Ms. Brown (Jen Brown, not plaintiffs’ expert Dr. Brown) acknowledged that no parents have ever complained about the content of the occasional character lessons.  Indeed, regardless of our respective religious beliefs, these character lessons are consistent with concepts we ALL want our kids to understand.

Jen Brown is a very experienced Ashtanga yoga practitioner and instructor who has studied extensively in India and elsewhere.  While plaintiffs have advanced repeated claims that Ashtanga yoga is inherently religious, Ms. Brown easily debunked such claims.  She credibly explained that, despite her years of Ashtanga exposure, she has never been taught anything about Hinduism or religion.  She further detailed the numerous ways in which the EUSD yoga program is wholly distinct from Ashtanga or any other form of yoga.  Indeed, all evidence supports that “EUSD Yoga”, as it’s been called during the trial, is its own unique kid-friendly style of yoga.  Even if Ashtanga yoga is perceived by plaintiffs to be inherently religious or spiritual, that’s NOT what our kids are being taught.  Even Dr. Brown, the plaintiff’s expert, conceded that Ashtanga requires strict adherence to a specific sequencing of poses which is substantially different from what’s being taught at EUSD.

Mr. Broyles grilled Jen Brown at length.  He suggested she worships the sun, and teaches students to do so, by performing a “sun salutation” yoga pose in which the arms are stretched upward.  Ms. Brown explained how the pose at issue, part of an “opening sequence” utilized in many forms of yoga, is simply an initial stretch of the back and shoulder muscles designed as a warm up for more challenging poses.  Broyles pressed on, seeking an admission that the yoga poses she teaches are not mere exercises but, in fact, a means by which she seeks to establish a “connection with the divine.”  Ms. Brown repeatedly testified she had no idea what Mr. Broyles was talking about.  In sum, she was impressive, engaging and sincere on the stand.  I suggest we all give Jen our thanks next time we see her.

Ultimately, the constitutional question to be resolved by Judge Meyer is whether, when viewed objectively by a student, the yoga program promotes or inhibits religion.  Notably, the “objective observer test” does not contemplate what a biased religious studies professor might perceive.  Indeed, after listening to Dr. Brown, I am convinced that she could find religious elements in virtually any activity our kids participate.  Noting her implication that religion is everywhere, Judge Meyer mused that perhaps all parents should simply home school their kids if there’s such a great concern about the slippery-slope influences of a public education.  The reality is that kids are not programmed to view stretching or exercise as religious – unless they are somehow pre-programmed to look at it that way.  Objectively, EUSD yoga is as secular as an aerobics class.

While there’s still more evidence to be offered during this trial, I really like our chances.  From both constitutional and common sense perspectives, the evidence is on our side.  Again, your support is greatly appreciated.

All the best,

Dave