Education A Washington Roundup

Justices Decline to Hear Parental-Rights Appeal

By Andrew Trotter — December 12, 2006 1 min read

The U.S. Supreme Court last week refused to hear the appeal of a group of California parents who argued that their school district violated their rights when it surveyed elementary school students about sex and sexuality.

Seven parents claimed in a lawsuit that the Palmdale district violated their rights when it administered the survey to students at Mesquite Elementary School in 2002.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled unanimously for the district in November 2005, holding that parents have no fundamental right “to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children.”

The parents’ appeal in Fields v. Palmdale School District (Case No. 06-300) argued that their constitutional rights, as interpreted by the court’s precedents, to family privacy and to direct their children’s upbringing should be balanced against a public school’s interest in compelling children to disclose personal information of a sexual nature.

The 22,000-student, K-8 district said in court papers that school officials notified parents beforehand about the psychological assessment and that they could opt their children out of it. The letter to parents did not say that the survey had questions on sexual topics.

The justices declined without comment on Dec. 4 to hear the parents’ appeal.

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2006 edition of Education Week