Two families filed a lawsuit on Thursday (local time) against a Massachusetts town and its public school system after a teacher read a gay-themed fairy tale to children without notifying them first.
The suit against Lexington, about 12 miles west of Boston, seeks unspecified damages after the book "King & King" was read to a classroom of about 20 mostly 7-years-olds. It is believed to be the first of its kind, the families' lawyers said.
The complaint said the school had "begun a process of intentionally indoctrinating very young children to affirm the notion that homosexuality is right and normal in direct denigration of the plaintiffs' deeply held faith."
It also charges that Lexington 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.
Ash said the school was under no legal obligation to inform parents the book would be read.
"This school district is committed to a welcoming environment for all kids. We embrace the diverse nature of the community," he said.
"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.
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 US state where gays and lesbians can legally wed.
It was read during a lesson on different types of weddings.
The lawsuit filed in US 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. The families are devout Judeo-Christians, it said.
'A Civil-rights matter'
"I was concerned that I had not broached this topic with my young child yet and I was concerned that the point of view that was being presented was different from our family's personal moral values," Robin Wirthlin said.
The suit 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, said.
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.
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.
"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.
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.