U-T San Diego
May 22, 2013
by Gary Warth

A trial addressing the legality of a yoga program in Encinitas elementary schools concluded its third day Wednesday without a resolution, and will now go on hiatus until at least late June.

The case was originally expected to last two days. When the trial resumes in San Diego Superior Court, it might continue for two or more days because attorneys on both sides intend to call additional witnesses before making their closing statements.

Parents of two students are suing the Encinitas Union School District to stop the program, which they believe is illegal because of what they see as a religious connection. The witnesses so far included religious scholar Candy Brown, who described the style of yoga practiced in the district as filled with religious elements.

District Superintendent Tim Baird said about 30 families had raised concerns about the program and about 40 children have opted out of it.

The district introduced the program in 2011 and is paying for it through a grant from the KP Jois Foundation, which also is funding a study to determine the effects of yoga on schoolchildren.

On Wednesday, Judge John Meyer and others in the courtroom got a firsthand look at the type of yoga being taught to students when instructor Jennifer Brown, who has no relation to Candy Brown, demonstrated several poses.

Jennifer Brown testified that a book used in the program is for storytelling, not religious indoctrination. She also denied teaching Sanskrit chants to her students, and said character traits that she highlights during the yoga sessions are secular in nature.

Representing the plaintiffs is attorney Dean Broyles, president of the National Center for Law & Policy in Escondido.

In addition to the district’s attorney, Jack Sleeth, the Coast Law Group in Encinitas joined the case on behalf of a group called Yoga for Encinitas Students.