The West Shore School District (WSSD) in Pennsylvania denied lawful opt-out requests from parents who do not want SEL curricula forced on their children. Stephen Miller's organization, America First Legal (AFL), and counsel Wally Zimolong filed a lawsuit against the district "for illegally subjecting children to radical and invasive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum and illegally denying lawful opt-out requests from multiple concerned parents." Four parents are named as Plaintiffs in the case.
CharacterStrong is the SEL platform WSSD uses in its schools in grades K-8. According to the website, the curriculum is built "into the daily fabric" of the school day. As the lawsuit states, the CharacterStrong SEL curriculum "intentionally teaches character traits and goes in-depth into what these traits look like and then follows up with practical ways to improve them in their own lives and with those around them."
The perhaps well-intended curriculum communicates a specific ideological stance meant to influence young, impressionable minds in the domain of social-emotional behavior. Many parents believe schools should teach the fundamentals of math, reading, and science instead of wandering into the realm of parental responsibility. Per the lawsuit, "the School District acknowledges that the CharacterStrong SEL curriculum is designed to supplement the personal values that parents instill in their children." The Plaintiffs believe the curriculum "conflicts with their Christian beliefs."
Kristi Alwine is one of the Plaintiffs and the mother of two children who attend one of the District's schools. On August 25, 2022, Alwine provided written notice under 22 Pa. Code § 4.4(b)(3), which allows a parent to apply in writing for an excuse from instruction because of a religious belief. Nothing in the code states the parent must justify or explain the request. Alwine's request stated, "I am writing to opt my children (identifies children and schools) out of the SEL/CASEL program CharacterStrong as it does not reflect our values, morals, and beliefs in our religion." Concerning religious beliefs, the lawsuit cites a Supreme Court Opinion that states, "[R]eligious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection."
The Principal, Chris Stine of the Rossmoyne Elementary School, initially responded to Alwine affirmatively, accepting her request. Stine responded, "I have received the form and will let the teachers know that your children will not be present for these lessons." However, later in the day, Alwine was informed by "defendant Whye" that Alwine's rights would not be respected and essentially asked Alwine to justify her right to request the excusal.
Principal Stine followed up with a "my bad" in the form of an email that referenced Whye's communication with Alwine. Stine told Alwine she would accept the excusal for her children when she provided additional information that complied with the District's "board policy." Alwine sent another letter on September 7, citing the same code, but her opt-out request was again denied on September 9. The other parents in the case underwent similar procedures and were also denied their right to opt-out.
The lawsuit asserts that 5 elements exist to justify the complaint, some having to do with harm that cannot be "compensated by damages." Others weigh the risks of injury if not granted and whether the "alleged wrong is manifest, and the injunction is reasonably suited to abate it." The parents followed the proper procedures for communicating their requests, but the school district still denied them their rights.
District School Board Policy Conflicts With Pennsylvania Code
Notably, District Board Policy 105.3, speaking to religious exemptions, conflicts with the cited Pennsylvania Code. However, one of the written guidelines in the board policy states the School District and its employees do not need to "ensure that the child exercises his/her right to be excused in accordance with a parental/guardian request." Another guideline states the burden falls on the child "to excuse themselves from the specific instruction that their parents' have opted them out of receiving."
The lawsuit also makes a case for violating both First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment protections. An excerpt of the policy and referenced guidelines are pictured below:
WSSD Board Policy/105.3
It is the rare child who will resist a teacher's lesson plan and risk judgment from peers by asking to be excused from an activity in which all other students are participating. It is also somewhat difficult to understand why a district would require a parent to apply in writing for an excuse and then put a somewhat contradictory guideline in the policy that effectively requires the child to make the final decision. But I digress.
How Prevalent is SEL and Why is it Being Pushed?
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), a governing body committed to spreading SEL, "27 states have adopted K-12 SEL competencies, and all 50 have adopted pre-K SEL competencies." This is not a movement that plans to disappear. In fact, global organizations are doubling down in the name of "sustainable development goals" or SDGs.
According to an article on the importance of SEL from The Federalist, "UNESCO is hellbent on getting SEL into every school in America and across the world." Using the word "resilience," a term also found frequently in the halls of our own government lexicon, UNESCO explains that educational institutions must employ "emotional resilience programs."
What does that mean? It means these global and local governmental bodies are committed to knocking the spark out of the child. When the spark is gone, molding that child to a more alien (to him) prescribed philosophical agenda is much easier. The child is much less likely to assert or challenge his familial or individual cultural mores and much more likely to step into line. The goal is to reduce the "taxing cognitive dissonance." If children are taught to value certain targeted behaviors early, they will be more "resilient." In this case, "resilience" means they will be more malleable and amenable to the specific, targeted agendas of the woke-minded gods.
A key part of this agenda is what UNESCO refers to as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which speak to the challenges of convincing people to participate in or do things that may not align with their upbringing or worldview. As such, the individual in society is often faced with a "series of potentially conflicting goals." In the world of a globalist that means the attainment of goals related to climate change, or racism, or poverty. Buy-in and action associated with attaining those goals may require the individual to "consider multiple options and make tradeoffs" that are taxing because they challenge a closely held belief system that may require changing.
The end game here is to groom pliant young minds (UNESCO calls them "development agents") early in life to be more open to the agendas and narratives outlined by the likes of WEF, no borders global elites. SEL in schools is one vehicle that carries the child to that ideological destination.
The statement below, with its terrifyingly sanitized and obfuscating language, reveals everything you need to know about how globalists think about educating our children.
Those who are ideologically attached to this type of agenda will do what it takes to draw children away from or soften the values of their families "and other behavioral antecedents" in service of their agenda. They know children will likely experience internal conflict when their learned values are challenged. It is that cognitive dissonance that SEL policies wish to remediate. Immersing the child in a wash of prescribed "emotional and prosocial skills" lowers their resistance to returning to their referential context (their family values). SEL curricula teach children to move away from the idea of the individual and behave in ways that prioritize the collective.
Parents are right to be concerned about their "development agents." The days of schoolyard disagreements worked out between peers are becoming a distant memory. Many children are now being programmed to think and act in ways that educators, not their own families, dictate. Drag Queen library readings, 26 genders, and required mythical pronouns are not innocuous developments in the lives of young, impressionable minds. Schools should return to teaching the fundamentals. I am glad these parents are asserting their right to raise their children according to their values.