Two sets of parents filed a lawsuit Thursday against a Massachusetts town and its public school system after a teacher read a gay-themed fairy tale to children without notifying them first, their lawyers said.
The lawsuit against Lexington, a wealthy suburb about 12 miles west of Boston, seeks unspecified damages after book “King & King” was read to a classroom of about 20 children who were mostly 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 Reuters in an interview 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 suitor until falling in love with a prince. The two marry, sealing the union with a kiss, and live happily ever after.
‘A civil-rights issue’
Ash has said 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 where gays and lesbians 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 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 issue 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.
Previous conflict with school
David Parker has been entangled 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 issue 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, California publisher, Tricycle Press, said complaints over 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 same-sex family, was published two years later.