Hopkins v. Hamden Bd. of Ed.

Decision Date31 August 1971
Docket NumberNo. 82995,82995
Citation29 Conn.Supp. 397,289 A.2d 914
CourtConnecticut Court of Common Pleas
PartiesJohn HOPKINS et al. v. HAMDEN BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.

Fasano, Zamm & Zanesky, South Norwalk, and Stephen J. O'Brien, Fairfield, for plaintiffs.

Joseph R. Greco, Town Atty., and Lawrence R. O'Brien, Asst. Town Atty., for the named defendant.

Robert K. Killian, Atty. Gen., and Bernard F. McGovern, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendant State Board of Education.

TUNICK, Judge.

The plaintiffs are school children who attend public schools in the town of Hamden and their parents. The defendants are the board of education of the town of Hamden and the state board of education. The complaint in this action seeks to obtain temporary and permanent injunctions against the use of a printed curriculum by the state board of education in authorizing, and the Hamden board of education in teaching, a course entitled 'Health Education.' It is a course which requires compulsory attendance and includes, in addition to physical education, a comprehensive and planned sequential study of 'reproduction,' 'hygiene,' 'sex education,' 'family life' and 'growth.' It has been prepared as a planned guide for use of teachers in instruction of school children of differing age and grade levels from kindergarten through grade twelve, which marks completion of high school studies. The course is outlined in a detailed curriculum containing 325 pages. The title of the curriculum is, 'A Guide for the Teaching of Health, Kindergarten-Grade 12,' and is dated November, 1968. The 'Guide' is in evidence as a plaintiffs' exhibit and has been in use in the Hamden public schools for approximately two full school years. The curriculum follows in sequential manner the teaching of the following nine main concepts: (1) Growth and Development, (2) Public Health, (3) Family Living and Sex Education, (4) Safety and First Aid, (5) Health Maintenance, (6) Consumer Education, (7) Alcohol, Narcotics, Tobacco, (8) Nutrition, (9) Disease.

In a complaint containing four all-inclusive counts, the plaintiffs allege, among other claims that certain statutes of the state which regulate its educational system have not been complied with and that they do not legally authorize the teaching of health education, the subject curriculum, and compulsory attendance. The plaintiffs further claim that the teaching of 'sex education' and 'family life' in public schools as a mandatory course is in violation of the provisions of the United States and Connecticut constititions which prohibit establishment of religion and interference with the rights to the free exercise of religion, and that the teaching of the course is an unconstitutional invasion of the rights of privacy of the plaintiffs.

The complaint raises complicated and sensitive issues of fact and law. Approximately eight weeks were consumed in trial and argument, and the transcript of the trial contains more than 3300 pages. In addition, numerous and voluminous exhibits were introduced in evidence and the court viewed films which were offered by the plaintiffs and which have been in use in teaching the curriculum. The record is replete with conflicting testimony of individual lay witnesses as well as with conflicting expert opinions and printed evidence in the exhibits. Substantial and in some instances new questions of interpretation and construction of statutory and constitutional provisions are raised by the pleadings and the evidence. These questions concern the duties, obligations, rights and interests of the respective parties, as well as the extent of the authority of the town of Hamden and the state of Connecticut in authorizing and teaching a compulsory course in health education. Counsel have recognized the complexities of the issues and the necessity of further inquiry by them into the evidence and the applicable law. For the latter reasons they have requested until October 26, 1971, for the preparation and filing of the final brief by the plaintiffs on the issues relating to the merits of the plaintiffs' prayers for permanent injunctions against the town and the state. A stipulation has been agreed upon by counsel that the trial of the case on the merits shall not be considered as completed until all briefs have been filed with the court.

The parties, through counsel, made oral arguments to the court on the application for temporary injunctions. Counsel for the plaintiffs and the defendants had agreed to file briefs relating to the temporary applications. The defendants have supplemented their oral arguments with written briefs. The plaintiffs have not. The parties have directed their oral and written arguments separately to each of the four counts of the complaint. The court, in like manner, his considered each count as it appears in the complaint and has limited itself only to a consideration of the record in its present state, without final briefs, and solely to the plaintiffs' claims for temporary injunctions.

Count 1 alleges that the state board of education has failed to comply with the statutory requirements of § 10-15 of the General Statutes. The plaintiffs claim that the last sentence of the statute mandates that courses in 'heallth instruction' and 'physical education' shall be prepared by the secretary of the state board of education and that they must then be approved by the state board before they may be taught in local school systems. The plaintiffs claim that these requirements were not satisfied and that the failure to meet these requirements renders the Hamden curriculum unauthorized and illegal. Section 10-15 is quoted in full as follows: 's 10-15. Towns to maintain schools. Prescribed courses of study. Public schools including kindergartens shall be maintained in each town for at least one hundred eighty days of actual school sessions during each year. The state board of education may authorize the shortening of any school year on account of an unavoidable emergency. The public schools shall be open to all children over five years of age without discrimination on account of race or color; provided town boards of education may, by vote at a meeting duly called, admit to any school children under five years of age or may exclude children who will not attain the age of five years until after the first day of January of any school year. In said schools shall be taught, by teachers legally qualified, reading; spelling; writing; English grammar; geography; arithmetic; United States, state and local history; the duties of citizenship, which shall include a study of the town, state and federal governments; hygiene, including the effects of alcohol and narcotics on health and character; physical and health education, including methods, as presented by the state board of education, to be employed in preventing and correcting bodily deficiency; instruction in the humane treatment and protection of animals and birds and their economic importance, such instruction, when practicable, to be correlated with work in reading, language and nature study; and such other subjects as may be prescribed by the board of education. Courses in health instruction and physical education shall be prepared by the secretary of the state board of education and, when approved by the state board of education, shall constitute the prescribed courses.'

When, as required by § 1-1 of the General Statutes, § 10-15 is read 'according to the commonly approved usage of the language,' the court finds no ambiguity or uncertainty in § 10-15. See Hurlbut v. Lemelin, 155 Conn. 68, 73, 230 A.2d 36; State v. Springer, 149 Conn. 244, 178 A.2d 525. A reading of the fourth sentence of the statute, without other considerations, clearly indicates on its face and without condition that local public schools are required to teach, among other courses listed, courses in 'hygiene' and 'physical and health education.' The last sentence of the statute makes clear toa the court from a simple reading that courses in health instruction and physical education may be prepared by the secretary of the state board of education and then approved by the state board of education. It is further clear that when these steps have been taken, then the courses so prepared and approved, and no others, shall be the 'prescribed' and the only courses in health instruction and physical education which shall be taught in local public schools. The wisdom of the imposition by legislative act of the conditions of preparation and approval by the secretary and the state board for establishing uniformity and 'prescribed' courses in the specified studies for all local schools is not subject to judicial review.

The court is unable to agree with or to accept the plaintiffs' interpretation of the statute as the basis for finding illegality or granting injunctive relief. The use of the word 'shall' in the last sentence of § 10-15 may be construed to permit descretion and to mean 'may.' Wentz's Appeal, 76 Conn. 405, 409, 56 A. 625; Staples v. Bridgeport, 75 Conn. 509, 54 A. 194. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly stated a blunt rule of statutory construction: 'The cardinal principle of statutory construction is to save and not to destroy.' National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, 301 U.S. 1, 30, 57 S.Ct. 615, 621, 81 L.Ed. 893; Champlin Refining Co. v. Corporation Commission, 286 U.S. 210, 234, 52 S.Ct. 559, 76 L.Ed. 1062. Legislative intent is not to be found in an isolated sentence, but the enactment must be examined in its entirety and its parts reconciled and made operative so far as possible. Garbaty v. Norwalk Jewish Center, Inc., 148 Conn. 376, 382, 171 A.2d 197. 'Courts must assume that the legislature intended a reasonable and rational result and must, when possible, construe statutes accordingly.' Masone v. Zoning Board, 148 Conn. 551, 556, 172 A.2d 891, 893.

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    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • August 28, 1975
    ...justified by the compelling state interest in education. 20 (Medeiros v. Kiyosaki, supra, 478 P.2d at 318; cf. Hopkins v. Hamden Board of Education, 29 Conn.Sup. 397, 289 A.2d 914). B--The Establishment of Religion In Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, at 15, 67 S.Ct. 504, at 511, 9......
  • Leebaert ex rel. Leebaert v. Harrington
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    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
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    ...(upholding state's mandatory health education requirement), aff'd 428 F.2d 471 (4th Cir.1970). See also Hopkins v. Hamden Board of Education, 29 Conn. Supp. 397, 289 A.2d 914 (1971) (upholding mandatory health education requirement prescribed by Conn.Gen.Stat. § 10-16b). They have done so n......
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    ...124 Cal.Rptr. 68 (Ct.App.1975), appeal dismissed, 425 U.S. 908, 96 S.Ct. 1502, 46 L.Ed.2d 759 (1976); Hopkins v. Hamden Board of Education, 29 Conn.Sup. 397, 289 A.2d 914 (Ct.Com.Pls.1970), appeal dismissed, 305 A.2d 536 (Conn.1973). Even though the program permits excusal, appellants argue......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Irs's Failure to Comply: Does "shall" Still Mean "shall"?
    • United States
    • Georgia State University College of Law Georgia State Law Reviews No. 32-3, March 2016
    • Invalid date
    ...action, but in penal law, "construction which is more favorable to [the] offender will be adopted"); Hopkins v. Hamden Bd. of Ed., 289 A.2d 914, 918 (Conn. 1971) (holding a provision in a statute stating certain courses "shall" be prepared should be interpreted as the courses "may" be prepa......

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