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Education Reporter

Decision-Making for Kids, Not Parents

ANTIOCH, CA --The Antioch Unified School District refused the request of parents Pam and Dennis Angelo to remove their son Vinnie from a class called "Decision Making." The school district maintains that the class, which contains subjects such as Problem Solving, Dating, Drinking, and Stress Management is required for graduation.

This led the Angelos to file suit against the district so another son, Mikel, an incoming sophomore, won't have to take the class.

"My wife and I do not wish to add to, delete from or change, in any way, shape or form this class," claims Mr. Angelo. "We do not wish to stop students from taking this class should they and their parents feel it would be advantageous. We merely wish to exercise our constitutionally guaranteed parental rights to direct the education of our children." He adds that Decision Making is not required by any federal, state or county agency, nor is it recognized or required by any college. In addition, Mr. Angelo discovered that there was never a curriculum task force for this class, nor was it ever approved by the Board of Education.

Superior Court Judge John Van DePoel declined to allow the Angelos to pull their son out of the class. Instead, he ordered the high school to switch the 10th grader to the spring session of the required "Decision Making" class, giving the parents time to review the curriculum and formally state their objections to school administrators before asking the courts to intervene. Previously, the school had maintained that there was just "too much material" to give the Angelos to review.

But the Rutherford Institute and attorney Steve Wood, who are representing the Angelos, believe the state education code is clear: If a parent wants to opt a child out of a values-oriented class, their written request should be honored.

The Decision Making course that is sparking so much controversy covers topics such as Sex Education, Career Planning, Values Clarification, and Identification of Values and Goal Setting. Only the sex-education part of the class is optional.

"Daily, I felt I had to deprogram Vinnie and reinstate our religious values," Pam Angelo stated in the court records. "I strongly objected on my religious beliefs to the portions which discussed sex, dating, mature relationships, and other non-academic topics."

In an interview, Pam Angelo said she was troubled by a question that asked students whether they had ever been depressed. Her son Vinnie was bringing home such papers as "Identifying Your Passions," which asks students when their "heart pounds with excitement," or "Sex is . . . [blank]." One assignment asked to list "family members I can trust."

Court records show one class assignment on dilemmas that posed different scenarios. In one, the stuident is asked, "Who's right -- Carol or her mother?" In another scenario, the student is asked what to do in a ceratin situation in which "you resent your parents' attempt to control you."

In the exercise called "Interview Questions and Starters," questions are posed such as, "How do you want to be remembered after you die?", "What might make a fitting epitaph on your gravestone?" and "What is something no one knows about you?"

Debra Saunders, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle comments, "Savor the irony. The district says it wants to teach decision-making to kids, but won't allow it to their parents."

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