California school yoga program gets $1.4m grant

ENCINITAS, Calif. (AP) - A Southern California school district has accepted a $1.4 million grant to expand a student yoga program that sparked religious complaints and a lawsuit.

Trustees of the Encinitas Union School District voted Wednesday to accept the grant from the Sonima Foundation to expand teaching at its nine campuses.

The foundation, formerly known as the Jois Foundation, is the same nonprofit group that initially funded the yoga fitness program for the San Diego County beach community. The foundation has said it believes the program will become a national model to help schools teach students life skills.

The new grant will provide funding to increase the number of teachers from 10 to 18, including professional development instructors who will train teachers in the physical activity and character development parts of the curriculum, district Superintendent Tim Baird said.

The program made national headlines after some parents argued it violated their religious freedom and promoted non-Christian religion, citing yoga's roots in Eastern religions.

The school district said the program as taught was secular.

A couple that opposed the classes sued the district in February but a judge ruled against them last month. Dean Broyles, the attorney who filed the suit, said he plans to appeal.

Broyles, who is president of the Escondido-based National Center for Law & Policy, also condemned the district's vote to accept the new grant.

The "decision to double down on its flagrant religious freedom violations is an outrageous breach of public trust," he wrote in an email.

Baird has said most students and parents support the program.

Yoga is now taught at public schools from the rural mountains of West Virginia to the bustling streets of Brooklyn as a way to ease stress in today's pressure-packed world where even kindergartners say they feel tense about keeping up with their busy schedules. But most classes are part of an after-school program, or are offered at only a few schools or by some teachers in a district.

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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