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Parents sue
Massachusetts school over reading of gay book

Parents sue
Massachusetts school over reading of gay book


Several parents filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a Massachusetts public school system after a teacher read a gay-themed fairy tale to young students.

Two sets of parents filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a Massachusetts town and its public school system after a teacher read a gay-themed fairy tale to children without notifying the parents first, their lawyers said. The lawsuit against Lexington, a wealthy suburb about 12 miles west of Boston, seeks unspecified damages after the book King & King was read to a classroom of about 20 children, most of whom were 7 years old.

It also charges that the school broke a 1996 Massachusetts law requiring that parents be notified of sex education lessons. It names Lexington superintendent of schools Paul Ash and several other school and town officials.

Lexington officials were not immediately available to comment. Ash told the Reuters news agency this week that the school was under no legal obligation to inform parents the book would be read. King & King tells the story of a crown prince who rejects a bevy of beautiful princesses, rebuffing each potential mate until falling in love with a prince. The two marry, sealing the union with a kiss, and live happily ever after.

Ash has said that reading the book was not intended as sex education but as a way to educate children about the world in which they live, especially in Massachusetts, the only U.S. state in which gay and lesbian couples can legally wed. It was read during a lesson about different types of weddings. "I see this as a civil rights issue. People who are gay have a right to be treated equally," Ash said on Monday.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. district court in Boston, alleges violations of the federal civil rights of the two sets of parents, David and Tonia Parker and Rob and Robin Wirthlin. It also accuses the town and school officials of violating the Massachusetts civil rights code and the state's parental notification law, according to the parents' attorney, Boston law firm Denner Associates. "This is plainly a civil rights matter," their lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, told Reuters.

The dispute erupted when Robin Wirthlin complained to the school's principal after her 7-year-old son told her about the reading last month. She then turned to the conservative Massachusetts-based advocacy group Parents Rights Coalition, which issued a statement on the case to the media last week.

David Parker has been at odds with the town's school system since he was arrested a year ago for trespassing when he refused to leave school grounds until authorities promised to excuse his son from classroom discussions on same-sex parents. His son, who at the time was about 5 years old, had brought home a "diversity book bag" that included the book Who's in a Family? The book includes pictures of same-sex parents along with other types of families.

The lawsuit comes as California considers introducing school textbooks highlighting the role of gays in its history. King & King was ranked eighth among the top 10 books people wanted removed from libraries in 2004, according to the American Library Association. Its Berkeley, Calif., publisher, Tricycle Press, said complaints about the 32-page book first surfaced in 2004 in North Carolina.

An Oklahoma legislator last year cited the book as reason to impose new restrictions on library collections.

Written by two Dutch women, the book has sold about 15,000 copies in the United States since it was translated and published in 2002. A sequel, King, King and Family, about a royal gay family, was published two years later. (Reuters)

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