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.”