Yoga religious program in CA. schools

Aug 1, 2013 by

In a quiet Wednesday morning meeting that featured none of the fireworks of earlier hearings on the same subject, trustees in the Encinitas Union School District accepted a $1.4 million grant to expand a yoga program that had garnered national attention and sparked a lawsuit about religious freedom.

“We’re very excited about this,” Superintendent Tim Baird told trustees about the grant from the Sonima Foundation, formerly the Jois Foundation.

The yoga program had gained national media attention after parents who opposed the classes sued the district on grounds that they were based in religious and inappropriate for public schools.

The lawsuit ended in July with a judge ruling in favor of the district.

The suit was filed by attorney Dean Broyles, who did not attend the Wednesday meeting but had strong words for the district through an e-mail sent later that day.

“EUSD’s decision today is really quiet astounding for me as a constitutional attorney,” wrote Broyles, president of the Escondido-based National Center for Law & Policy.

“ We are a nation of laws, not men,” he continued. “EUSD’s decision to double down on its flagrant religious freedom violations is an outrageous breach of public trust. Apparently the money served as much too powerful an intoxicant for the trustees to handle and far too easily purchased continuing egregious First Amendment violations.”

Broyles has said he plans to appeal the decision handed down by Superior Court Judge John Meyer on July 1.

Baird said the new grant will increase the number of teachers from 10 to 18 and will pay to write part of the program’s curriculum dealing with positive character traits.

Two of the new positions will be for professional development, with one person training teachers in the physical activity and another training them in character development, a curriculum component already taught in other district classes, Baird said.

The original yoga classes were funded through a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, named after Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who introduced to the United States a style of yoga known as Ashtanga.

Baird said the foundation, which earlier this year changed its name to the Sonima Foundation, already had increased its support to about $700,000 to help pay for additional expenses and another teacher.

“The Jois Foundation can change its name, but it can’t camouflage the fact that it is promoting religion in a public school district,” Broyles wrote.

The foundation is funding a three-year study on the effects of yoga on students with a plan to create a free curriculum that someday will be available to all schools.

During the trial, a religious expert called by Broyles said Ashtanga is more religious than other types of yoga. Baird, however, said the yoga practiced in the district was not Ashtanga, but a secular version he called “EUSD yoga.”

Broyles said he believes district students in fact do know about Ashtanga Yoga because some participated in a conference about its teachings last March at the Catamaran Resort on Mission Bay.

The seminar included a discussion about teaching Ashtanga yoga to children in and out of the school system and a short demonstration with students from the district, according to a schedule of events about the event, he said.

via Trustees accept $1.4 million to expand Encinitas yoga program |

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