SAN DIEGO (AP) — A judge ruled Monday that a public school district can teach yoga, siding with administrators who argued the practice is a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance and rejecting pleas of parents who said the classes are inherently religious and violate the constitutional principle of separating church and state.
Yoga is a religious practice, but not the way that it is taught by the Encinitas Union School District at its nine campuses, San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer said.
Meyer emphasized that the school district stripped classes of all cultural references, including the Sanskrit language. The lotus position was renamed the "crisscross applesauce" pose.
The judge said parents who objected relied on personal opinions, some culled from Internet searches.
"It's almost like a trial by Wikipedia, which isn't what this court does," said Meyer, who took nearly two hours to explain a decision that explored yoga's Indian roots and philosophy.
Dean Broyles, an attorney for Encinitas parents Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, said he would likely appeal.
"It was the judge's job to call balls and strikes and determine the facts. I think he got some of the facts wrong," he said.
The district is believed to be the first in the country to have full-time yoga teachers at every one of its schools. The lessons are funded by a $533,720, three-year grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Encinitas that promotes Asthanga yoga.
The twice-weekly, 30-minute classes are offered to the district's 5,600 students north of San Diego, in addition to regular physical education.
About 30 families have opted out of the classes, which were introduced in 2011 at one campus and later expanded to others, Superintendent Timothy Baird said. The superintendent hailed the ruling, calling yoga "21st century P.E." that yielded "amazing" health benefits.
The judge said the Jois Foundation's involvement was troubling but rejected parents' arguments that it amounted to a stealth attempt to guide students to Eastern religion. The foundation insists that the classes are not religious.
The lawsuit did not seek monetary damages but asked the court to intervene and suspend the program.
The plaintiffs relied heavily on testimony of Candy Gunther Brown, an Indiana University religious studies professor who found the district's program is pervasively religious, having its roots in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and metaphysical beliefs and practices.
Yoga is now taught at public schools from the rural mountains of West Virginia to the bustling streets of Brooklyn as a way to ease stress in today's pressure-packed world where even kindergartners say they feel tense about keeping up with their busy schedules. But most classes are part of an after-school program, or are offered only at a few schools or by some teachers in a district.
Email Alert Sign Up
Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) - A California family has its dog back, a year and a half after it went missing while the family was camping in western Arizona. The Daily Courier (http://bit.ly/18wyRH5 ) reportsMore >>
Meko had wandered off from the family's tent at a campground in Parker on the Fourth of July weekend in 2012, apparently taken by a man who also was in the campground.More >>
MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Mesa police have released the identity of a 14-year-old girl whose dead body was found in a trash container and say her death was a homicide. Police say the body of Claudia Ann LuceroMore >>
Police say the body of Claudia Ann Lucero was found early Friday and that she was last seen Thursday morning at her home.More >>
SPRINGFIELD, Vt. (AP) — Before Aaron Collins died, he gave his brother, Seth, a mission: Eat, be merry and leave a giant tip. On Wednesday night, Seth Collins of Lexington, Ky., did just that, leavingMore >>
Before Aaron Collins died, he gave his brother, Seth, a mission: Eat, be merry and leave a giant tip.More >>
EL CENTRO, CALIF. (13 On Your Side) - Officials have released some of the names of the people arrested during Wednesday's massive drug trafficking bust in Imperial Valley. But as we previously reported,More >>
Officials have released some of the names of the people arrested during Wednesday's massive drug trafficking bust in Imperial Valley.More >>
YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) - More than 30 teams showed up to Yuma Catholic's annual Rachel Determan Rib Cook-Off, ready to grill and show off their best ribs. This year, "the Chicharones" took homeMore >>
More than 30 teams showed up to Yuma Catholic's annual Rachel Determan Rib Cook-Off, ready to grill and show off their best ribs.More >>
YUMA, Ariz. (13 On Your Side) – In a massive drug sting aimed at one of the most powerful Mexican drug cartels, the Imperial Valley Narcotics Task force arrested ten drug smugglers trafficking meth andMore >>
In a massive drug sting aimed at one of the most powerful Mexican drug cartels, the Imperial Valley Narcotics Task force arrested ten drug smugglers trafficking meth and cocaine across the border from Mexicali.More >>
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Jurors resumed deliberations Monday on the punishment for an Arizona inmate who kidnapped and murdered a retired Oklahoma. The federal panel is considering whether John McCluskeyMore >>
The couple crossed paths with McCluskey and fellow fugitives at a New Mexico rest stop following an Arizona prison break.More >>