The Coast News Group
Students at Paul Ecke Central take part in a yoga class. Recently, the National Center for Law and Policy announced plans to sue Encinitas Union School District over the program. Photo by Jared Whitlock

EUSD sued over yoga program

ENCINITAS — Lawyers are bent out of shape about a yoga program at the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD). 

The National Center for Law and Policy filed a civil rights lawsuit against the district over its program. The plaintiffs argue the program indoctrinates students with religious beliefs promoted by Ashtanga yoga. But the district insists the program only promotes health, and that the lawsuit won’t stall yoga at its schools in the future.

“My answer hasn’t changed: there is no religious component to this program,” EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird said shortly after the law center issued a press release announcing its intent to sue the district.

EUSD introduced yoga classes to its students in the fall thanks to a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, and the district is in talks with the foundation to continue the program for three more years. Baird said he hasn’t seen the lawsuit yet, but he doesn’t expect it to affect those negotiations.

Rather than seek monetary damages, the lawsuit aims to scrap the program on the grounds that it violates the establishment clause of the constitution, what’s more commonly known as “separation of church and state.”

“This frankly is the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney,” said Dean Broyles, one of the attorneys at the law center, in a press release.

The press release goes on to say: “EUSD’s improperly cozy relationship with the Jois Foundation has entangled the district in an unnecessary and avoidable religious controversy.”

Broyles, who could not be reached for comment by press time, has threatened the district with legal action for several months. He filed the lawsuit on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their two children, who are students at El Camino Creek.

The law center also argues that the students who were pulled from the program by their parents haven’t been receiving 200 minutes of state-mandated PE every 10 days.

In response, Baird said that the district isn’t technically required to provide an alternative program for the 30 families who opted their children out of the program. Still, he said the district has worked to find “individualized solutions for each of the families,” including a separate PE class at some of the schools. The yoga program counts toward the 200 minutes of required PE in some district schools, but not others like El Camino Creek, Baird said.

Further, Baird said the program’s curriculum was built upon fitness standards dictated by the state government, not any kind of religion.

Baird also noted several law firms have offered to take the district’s case pro bono.

The district started yoga at five of its schools in the fall, and then launched the program at its four remaining schools in January. At most of the schools, students in all grades participate in the program twice a week for 30 minutes. Currently, the University of San Diego is studying how the program affects student behavior and health.

“We’re waiting for those results,” Baird said. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard from students and principals that there are lots of positives to the program — students are more relaxed and better able to study.”

But Broyles’ press release isn’t as optimistic, stating the program has led to “harassment and bullying.”



Leon Page February 21, 2013 at 8:08 am

I’m rooting for the school district on this so that the matter can be decided through the normal democratic process. My sense is that the school board has the support of the voters, but in any event, innovation and experimentation in public education is no bad thing.

Swami Param April 2, 2013 at 5:14 am

The majority is not always right, Leon. “… public education is no bad thing.” So, why not do that? Get a dictionary; books on comparative religions; books on Hinduism; books on non-Hindu religions. With a simple bit of research, one will find where Yoga is (factually) and where it is not.

Kit Dubois February 21, 2013 at 1:32 am

What on Earth is wrong with Californians these days? Fitness ruled when I lived there. You have allowed Prop 37 to fail and now your Grand kids will be sterile with shrunken testicles and ovaries due to GMO foods and on the other side you wont allow mobile food trucks to sell junk or gourmet food to weekend customers who probably eat well during work and school days. You have dropped music, art and PE from the class schedules and have allowed some Church to dictate how your kids get some form of exercise.Maybe you should not call it Yoga. RENAME it … perhaps it won’t fall under any religious practice if its called mental acuity training or therapeutic breathing techniques to develop muscle tone and promote longer attention spans . ( heaven forbid you take the kids off Addaral and Ritalin)
PLEASE wake up parents. Nobody should tell you how to improve your own children’s school performance, except you with the guidance of educational professionals.

Swami Param April 1, 2013 at 5:42 am

You got the point, Kit, “rename it.” Stretching and relaxation is one thing, Yoga is quite another. It takes little research (what schooling is suppose to be about) to uncover the facts that Yoga is the Hindu religion.

Haydesigner April 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

Ahhh @Swami Param… has Stephen Sedlock finally realized how completely idiotic he looks in this lawsuit, and has now hired people to write feeble (and blatantly untrue) defenses in the comment sections now?

Or are you actually Stephen Sedlock, too afraid to write under his own name?

Swami Param April 4, 2013 at 5:44 am

You are making straw dogs Haydesigner. I don’t know Stephen Sedlock nor the case. As a Hindu, my point is simply that real Yoga is Hinduism. Are you afraid of the facts? What is idiotic, at best, is divorcing Hatha Yoga from Hinduism.

Mike S February 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I wish I had yoga when I was in grade school. It’s a fantastic form of low-intensity exercise, and is much more useful than playing dodgeball or whatever time-wasting rubbish I went through in PE class. Religious indoctrination? Please.

Mike S February 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I googled “The National Center for Law and Policy”. Turns out it’s an Escondido non-profit that fights for your rights as long as you are christian, white, pro-choice and straight. The irony of NCLP filing a lawsuit for religious indoctrination and separation of church and state is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Amazing.

Swami Param March 31, 2013 at 5:59 am

The overlooked problem is that (real) Yoga is not at all simply a physical exercise. Hatha Yoga (and the other forms of Hindu/Yoga) is all about the Hindu religion. It is very insulting to devoted Hindus to have their religion so perverted. Stretching is one thing; Hatha Yoga is quite another.

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