ENCINITAS — Concerned parents and a potential lawsuit haven’t weighed down a school yoga program.
At the beginning of the school year, the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) introduced yoga classes in five of its nine schools. Starting Monday, the program will launch at four more district schools, including at Ocean Knoll, Mission Estancia and La Costa Heights.
“Teachers in our schools have reported the program is effective,” said David Miyashiro, assistant superintendent of education services with the district. “We’re standing our ground.”
Miyashiro said some schools began later than others in order to fully judge the program’s impact.
EUSD is one of the first districts to measure how yoga affects students’ mental and physical health. From August to November, researchers from the University of San Diego recorded how students at EUSD’s schools responded to yoga. This included passing out surveys that gauged whether students’ perceptions of themselves changed after doing yoga. Results will be compared with assessments from students in the schools that have yet to begin yoga.
“In other words, there’s a test and control group,” Miyashiro said.
The full study will likely be released in late February. But early results indicate students who took part in yoga weren’t as violent and less likely to act out, Miyashiro said.
The yoga program that’s debuting at the four schools will likely be no different than what’s currently being taught. Students in all grades participate in the program twice a week for 30 minutes.
This year’s yoga program was funded by a $534,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a group that supports Ashtanga yoga and wellness programs in schools. Miyashiro noted the district is in talks with the Jois Foundation for a grant that would again cover yoga for all schools next year.
Dean Broyles, an Escondido lawyer, wants the district to eliminate the yoga program all together. Broyles has threatened the district with legal action on behalf of parents in the district for continuing the program.
When asked if he plans to sue the district, Broyles said he “can’t discuss litigation strategies at this time.”
“I will say that all options are on the table,” Broyles said.
Broyles said the district is violating state and federal laws by indoctrinating students with religious beliefs. Ashtanga yoga taught by the district can’t be untangled from Hinduism, he said.
“The thrust of my concern is that the district is violating the establishment cause of the constitution, or what’s known as ‘separation of church and state,’” Broyles said.
But Miyashiro said the yoga program simply promotes well being. Further, there is no religious component whatsoever, he argued. The curriculum was built upon fitness standards dictated by the State and Federal governments.
Parents who do not want their kids in the program can opt out, he said. So far, about two-dozen students have been pulled from the program.
“(The program)has been popular with a lot of parents,” Miyashiro said.