LEXINGTON, Mass., Oct. 19, 1005 — -- "My wife and I have religious beliefs that say to us it's a sin," David Parker said. He's referring to four pages in a book his 5-year-old son was given by his Massachusetts kindergarten teachers.
The book "Who's In a Family" -- included in a "diversity book bag" for students at Estabrook Elementary School -- is about all kinds of families, including multi-racial, single parent and, to Parker's chagrin, same-sex parents.
There are two main issues in this controversy, which are being debated far beyond the Estabrook school: Is teaching kids about gays and lesbians tolerance or propaganda? And how much control do parents have over what their children are taught?
In several conversations by phone, mail and e-mail, Parker asked teachers and officials at the school to notify him any time the subject of homosexuality was discussed in class.
"When affirmation and normalization of these lifestyles come up, parents want to know about [it] and have the option to opt out," he said.
Dr. Paul Ash, superintendent of Lexington Public Schools, said the school tried to be accommodating.
"The school department said, 'Look, we'll work with you, but we cannot assure you what a child is going to say and that we can immediately stop a discussion that you find objectionable,'" said Ash. "One of the central units in kindergarten is the discussion of families and we show families of all different types." Ash says the discussions "ended up in an irreconcilable difference."
After one meeting in April, Parker refused to leave the school without that assurance. He was arrested and, after refusing to post the $40 bail, he spent the night in jail.
The school board then obtained a restraining order to keep him off school property.
Last month, the community held rallies both for and against Parker on the Lexington green. Many parents, after all, agree with the school's effort to instill sensitivity in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.