Parents protest yoga classes in New York school

New York, Oct 3 | Updated: Oct 4 2008, 06:13am hrs
Plans to introduce a yoga programme in a New York district have been stalled after parents objected to it alleging that their children were being indoctrinated in Hindu rites.

The yoga programme aimed at relieving stress at Massena Central High School was temporarily suspended by the Board of Education pending further investigation into complaints by some parents.

Board president Julie L Reagan, however, defended holding yoga classes for students, insisting it is not a hidden religious programme. Its a propaganda affront, she said. In my opinion, its Christian fundamentalism and nothing more than this.

The Board of Education has no intention of ending the programme, she said, I am truly committed to seeing that the programme continues. Nearly 100 schools in 26 states have yoga classes, according to Reagan.

A few vocal parents raised concerns about the separation of church and state at a meeting, saying the district could not expose their children to Hindu rituals, the Watertown Daily Times reported on its website.

Yoga, even in its most basic form, is tied into Hinduism, said Rev Colin J Lucid, of Calvary Baptist Church in Massena, also one of the dissenting parents. My concern is separation of church and state. I am not against Hinduism. We will respect and take these concerns seriously, but we have not caved, Reagan said.

Martha C Duchscherer, a special-education teacher, and Kerry A. Perretta, a Spanish teacher, began using yoga in their classrooms at the beginning of the school year as stress relief before exams.

The teachers found that yoga helps special-education students, some of whom are autistic or have emotional issues, focus on classwork and calm down in stressful situations. They come into school with a lot of baggage, Reagan said. Yoga has been proven to help them deal with it and be ready to learn. To reassure parents, the teachers will now show them their methods. Parents in Aspen, Colorado, had earlier forced scrapping of yoga in the local curriculum in 2002.