Dr. Blaisdell's Response
Thank you for writing me recently. I understand the concerns you expressed
on behalf of several parents and share your belief that it is your responsibility
to educate your children about issues of sexuality as well as other areas
with deal with matters of morality and beliefs.
As I described to you in aur recent telephone conversation, the state law
you cited refers to those areas of the curriculum which are taught by teachers
as part of the school's program of studies. Since attendance at approved
courses is required of students, the law permits parents to "exempt their
children" from portions of that curriculum. That law, in my view, does not
apply to student organizations which are voluntary. Parents can instruct
their children not to participate in such voluntary activites. I noted that
the unfortunate example survey question you described in you letter was
hypothetical and could be reasonably viewed by some as inflammatory. It was,
however, not taken from the survey developed previously by our students,
a copy of which I sent to you previously.
You requested that our school establish a policy for this student group "Whereby
it engages in no educational or semi-educational activities, such as workshops,
seminars, surveys, and distribution of written literature or audio-visual
materials." For now, I will not recommend such a policy to the School Committee
since I believe that such action would be illegal, violating portions of
both the federal and state constitutions and other provisions of the law.
I believe that you wish to insulate your children from exposure to the issues
which concern you will conflict with what courts have held to be constitutionally
protected "Free speech," even for high school students.
I am, however, sending a copy of you letter and this response to both the
General Counsel of the Massachusetts Department of Education and the Town
Council. I will seek their review of this matter. When I recieve their responses,
I will be in touch with you again. In the meantime, kindly contact me if
you have further questions.
George I. Blaisdell
Superintendent of Schools