Free to Believe

David and Tonia Parker

Joseph Estabrook School: Lexington, Massachusetts

In January 2005, David and Tonia Parker’s 5-year-old son Jacob came home from his kindergarten class at Lexington's Joseph Estabrook School with books promoting non-traditional family arrangements—including a same-sex couple raising children. The Parkers grew concerned that the school was teaching their son values at odds with their deeply held beliefs about marriage.

According to the Boston Globe, David Parker began a series of email exchanges with school officials, requesting that he be notified about these discussions and asking that his son be free to opt out of the school’s conversations and teaching about gay marriage. However, discussions on the subject culminated on April 27, 2005, when Parker met with school officials and attempted to gain assurances that his requests would be honored. Parker insisted he would not leave until receiving that assurance, stayed at Estabrook School for more than two hours and was arrested by Lexington police for trespassing.

Then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney declined to weigh in on the specifics of the Parker case, but noted, ''Schools under our parental-notification law are required to inform parents . . . of matters relating to human sexuality that may be taught in the classroom and to allow that child to be out of the classroom for that period of the education."

On May 17, 2006, the two-year anniversary of Massachusetts’ legalization of court-created same-sex marriage, Jacob Parker (now 7 years old) was dragged and beaten during recess, receiving multiple blows to the chest, stomach, and genital area. In an interview with LifeSiteNews, David Parker indicated “During the recess period, a group of 8-10 kids suddenly surrounded Jacob and grabbed him. He was taken around the corner of the school building out of sight of the patrolling aides, with the taunting and encouragement of other kids. Jacob was then positioned against the wall for what appeared to be a well planned and coordinated assault.”

Parker noted that news of his arrest had been published and distributed to the children’s families and that some of the school's families had participated in demonstrations against him.

When asked if he was planning to pull Jacob out of school, Parker replied, “We’re trying to hang on to the notion that the schools are for every child and for everyone. I don’t feel that we should have to leave for an injustice.”

“There are limits to how much patience we can have,” he added. “I certainly understand why more and more parents are pulling their children out of public schools.”

Another Lexington couple, Rob and Robin Wirthlin, were similarly outraged when a children’s book about a same-sex love story and wedding was read to their child in class at the Estabrook School. The Parkers and Wirthlins filed a federal lawsuit charging a violation of their parental rights and rights to the free exercise of religion. However, the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected these claims, and on October 6, 2008, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of Parker v. Hurley.

Photo credit: Courtesy of MassResistance.org