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SEX SUIT WON'T BE REVIEWED BY COURT.

Byline: CHARLES F. BOSTWICK Staff Writer

PALMDALE -- The U.S. Supreme Court declined to enter a legal controversy over whether parents have a federal constitutional right to prevent their children from being taught about sex in school.

Without comment, the high court turned down a request to review a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that found no constitutional right giving parents exclusive control over providing information about sex to their children.

Involving a 2002 survey at a Palmdale elementary school, the appellate ruling -- from the same court that in 2002 said including the phrase ``under God'' in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was unconstitutional -- drew outrage from conservatives and a denunciation from Congress.

``It's not surprising the Supreme Court declined; only about one percent of requests are accepted for review,'' said Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, the nonprofit organization that took up the seven Palmdale parents' case. ``At this point, we need to focus on state laws that protect parental rights.''

The case stems from a 2002 survey administered to 13 seven- to 10-year-olds at Mesquite Elementary School by a volunteer mental health counselor, part of a study to gauge Palmdale children's exposure to trauma and devise steps to remove barriers to learning.

Of the 79 questions, 10 involved sex, including asking the youngsters how much they thought about having sex, if they didn't trust other people because they might want sex, and if they touched their private parts too much.

After parents complained, Palmdale School District officials halted the survey. The school superintendent said she agreed with the parents that the questions about sex were inappropriate.

School officials said parents signed permission forms for the survey, but the forms made no mention of sexually oriented questions. Staver said not all the parents gave permission.

California law requires school officials to notify parents before their children get any teaching on human reproduction, and lets them pull their children from that class. But Staver said the appellate case, which was started by a different law firm, did not involve the state law.

The Ninth Circuit Court ruling in November 2005 said it wasn't commenting on the wisdom of administering the survey or asking children questions about sex.

The ruling said: ``We do not quarrel with the parents' right to inform and advise their children about the subject of sex as they see fit. We conclude only that the parents are possessed of no constitutional right to prevent the public schools from providing information on that subject to their students in any forum or manner they select.''

Two weeks later, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 320-91 to demand the appellate court reconsider the case. The resolution said the court ``declared parenting unconstitutional.''

The court declined to reconsider its ruling, saying in its rejection that, except for the First Amendment's restrictions, ``What information schools provide is a matter to the school boards, not the courts, to decide.''

Although Palmdale School District officials disavowed the survey four years ago and said it was a mistake, the district's insurance provider paid for the attorney who represented the district before the Ninth Circuit Court. The district didn't have an attorney involved in the latest request, Interim Superintendent Roger Gallizzi said.

``It sort of did take on a life of its own,'' Gallizzi said of the controversy.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 5, 2006
Words:560
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