The Coast News Group
Craig Nordal holds signs reading, “Protect your children” and “Opt out of yoga” at Capri Elementary School to protest the Encinitas Union School District yoga program. Drawing concerns from parents, he’s been to at least five of the district’s campuses so far. Photo courtesy of EUSD parent

Man protesting yoga program outside of EUSD schools

ENCINITAS — A local man has been staging protests at Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) campuses, holding signs that urge parents to opt their children out of the district’s yoga program. 

Reports of Encinitas resident Craig Nordal picketing EUSD schools surfaced last week. Carrying signs with messages like “Protect your children,” he’s been to at least five of EUSD’s nine campuses so far.

When reached over the phone on Tuesday, Nordal declined to comment on the article.

On Oct. 28, Nordal sent an email addressed to three EUSD school board trustees stating, “Yoga is without any question anti-Christ.”

The email goes on to say: “I know that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be holding to account anyone who is held responsible for leading innocent children astray! It is certain that this yoga program is absolutely doing that!”

Soon after EUSD launched its yoga program last year, a group of parents took issue with it, arguing that yoga forwards Hinduism and is unconstitutional. A lawsuit followed, and a judge ruled this summer that EUSD yoga promotes fitness and mental wellness, not any kind of religious doctrine.

Dean Broyles, who brought the initial lawsuit, filed an appeal of the ruling two weeks ago. Broyles said that he isn’t “encouraging or discouraging” the protests.

“I am not involved in the protests, so I don’t really have much to say except that it appears that said gentleman is engaged in expressive activity explicitly protected by the First Amendment,” Broyles said. “While one may or may not agree with his message, he has the constitutional right to express it publicly and he appears to be doing so in a respectful and appropriate manner.”

EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird said that parents and principals at the schools have complained about Nordal’s protests.

The protests have been taking place in the mornings around the time parents are dropping their children off.

“He has his First Amendment right to be out there, but I’m not sure if he needs to be in front of the children,” Baird said.

Baird said he’s heard of “verbal exchanges” happening between Nordal and frustrated parents, including a dispute that briefly held up traffic. But at this time, Baird doesn’t believe Nordal poses any security risk.

Baird added he was told Nordal is a grandparent of a child in the district, though he couldn’t confirm that.

Dave Peck, who is representing EUSD families in the yoga lawsuit, noted a “couple dozen parents” have reached out to him to express their disapproval with the protests.

Peck said Nordal has a legal right to stand in front of the campuses, but called it “fanning the flames of controversy.” He added that it would be more appropriate for Nordal to make his dissatisfaction known at school board meetings.

He stated that those against school yoga had their day in court this summer, and the debate will continue to play out during the appeal process.

“The court system remains the appropriate venue for this debate,” Peck said. “To stir the pot at school campuses, in front of children, is the height of irresponsibility.”


Swami Param November 15, 2013 at 7:31 am

Maybe this is what it takes to wake people up to the facts that real Yoga is Hinduism. The phony Yoga movement has been around long enough. Interestingly, the phony yogis have a similar mindset as the Christian fundamentalist that they protest. Both groups are trying to indoctrinate the masses into their belief system–“Yoga is for everybody.” “Christianity is for everybody.”

Lynn Marr November 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm

It’s not up to a lawyer for EUSD or for the Superintendent to determine if the protester “needs to be out there.”

“It is the height of irresponsibility” for a lawyer or school district bureaucrat, to try to derail an individaul’s inalienable right to freedom of expression through an attorney’s own hyperbole and rhetoric.

I respect Yoga, and its practice, but there are some institutional/religious aspects to this program, concerning a Yoga Foundation’s paying EUSD about $2 Million, total, to become involved in our children’s elementary education.

Had Superintendent of Encinitas Union School District, Tim Baird, given parents more notice and the opportunity to OPT IN to the program, with comparable ALTERNATIVES for those not wanting their children to opt in, TO BEGIN WITH, rather than a belated opportunity to opt out, much of this controversy could have been avoided.

Had the program been available when my daughters went elementary school, here, I would have allowed them to opt in, had they wanted to participate. But Tim Baird, in this district only since 2009, is NOT doing a good job for locals by his mismanagement and his repeated failures in pubic relations, including through his inadequate communications to parents of EUSD students.

Dr. Lorri November 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I will always go with the First Amendment, even if I don’t agree with the content of what a protestor wants to say. While I don’t condone the way Mr. Nordal is handling how he feels about yoga in schools, I also don’t like the idea that Mr. Peck is somehow telling us what is, or is not, “irresponsible”. Mr. Peck is a founder of Coast Law Group, the same group that had a press conference demanding Mayor Filner, of San Diego, resign. They trotted out many women who they said were sexually harassed by Mr. Filner. There was no day in court for Mr. Filner, so who is “irresponsible” if we go by Mr. Pecks argument? Personally I think yoga is great in schools. But I also respect a persons right to protest.

Swami Param November 24, 2013 at 6:17 am

Lorri, What do you think concerned Hindus (and others) think about “the idea” of non-Hindus “telling us [Hindus] what is, or is not,” Yoga? You “obviously” do not know what is Yoga. You and others should respect the rights of the Hindus and Hinduism. Real Yoga is Hinduism.

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