Republicans introduce ‘Bill of Rights’ to give parents a voice in education of their children

parents bill of rights Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republican House members introduce the "Parents Bill of Rights" Thursday. | Speaker Kevin McCarthyYouTube channel

Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution to establish a “Parents Bill of Rights” this week, which is meant to bolster parental rights in the public education system with a new set of federal standards for schools. 

The resolution, which has 73 Republican co-sponsors, would make parents active participants in the education of their children. According to a news release sent out by the primary sponsor, Rep. Julia Letlow, R-Louisiana, the resolution is based on five principles: parents should have a right to know what their children are being taught, to be heard, to see the school budget and spending, to protect their child’s privacy, and to keep their children safe. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, held a press conference Thursday with lawmakers, parents, and children to promote the resolution. He said remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic helped shed light on problems with the education system and the difficulties parents face when trying to make their voices heard.

“The pandemic was so difficult for our entire nation,” McCarthy said. “But the one thing that came out of it, we started seeing what was taught in our schools. We were seeing what they were reading. That’s something we should have every day, but then we had to fight to find it out and then when we fought to make our voice, we were attacked. No longer will that take place.”

Letlow said many parents became “disheartened with what we were viewing” during the pandemic and that some parents “were turned away and some of us even labeled ‘domestic terrorist’” when “we voiced our displeasure.” She cited those problems as the impetus for introducing the resolution. 

Many of the changes are meant to make information more accessible to parents. The resolution would require school districts to post curriculum information publicly and compel schools to provide parents with a list of books and other reading material in the school library. 

States would need to make any revisions to academic standards or learning benchmarks public and schools would need to give parents timely notice if gifted and talented programs are to be eliminated. It would also require public disclosure of school district budgets and each school’s budget, which includes revenues and expenditures. 

The resolution would bolster parents’ rights to provide their input on how the public school system is run. It would create new federal requirements for school boards to allow parents to address the board. It also would require teachers to offer parents at least two in-person meetings with them every year. 

Some parents spoke in favor of the legislation during the news conference and cited problems they faced with the schools their children attend.

Neeley McAllister, a mother in Fairfax County, Virginia, who has three daughters in the public school system, spoke in favor of the resolution. She cited problems she faced with the school division, which included her daughter being suspended for refusing to wear a mask after Gov. Glenn Youngkin banned schools from imposing mask mandates and the schools pushing adult themes. 

“Parents in Fairfax County and in school districts across this country now had a front-row seat to what their children were learning in school,” McAllister said of the experience with remote learning during the pandemic. “And in most cases, we were dismayed and appalled at the adult subject matter that was not only on the bookshelves … of taxpayer-funded libraries but also being forced upon them in the classroom. So not only were we finally figuring out what they were actually being taught in schools, but it exposed the complete disdain for parental input.” 

Nicole Solas, a mother from Rhode Island, said she faced threats of legal action because she tried to obtain information about what her kindergartener was being taught. 

“I asked to see the curriculum and my school told me I had to submit a public records request,” Solas said. “The curriculum wasn’t posted online and it wasn’t available in the school district. Then I asked them if they were teaching gender theory and they told me that they don’t call children boys and girls and they imbed the values of gender identity into every classroom, including kindergarten, and they didn’t want to answer any of my questions further. They told me that they would communicate with me only through public records requests and that is the only way I could get my questions answered.” 

After submitting hundreds of public records requests, she said the school board “held a public school board meeting to discuss suing me for submitting the requests that they told me to submit.” Ultimately, she said, “they decided they wouldn’t sue me for asking questions because they never intended on actually suing me; they just wanted to publicly humiliate me in a school board meeting that was a show trial.”

In addition to making information more accessible to parents, the resolution would also establish certain privacy and safety rights for students. Schools would need parental permission to share student data with tech companies and would not be allowed to sell student data for commercial purposes. Schools would also need parental consent before any medical exam takes place. In addition, schools would need to notify parents of violent activity on school grounds and school-sponsored events while maintaining the privacy of the students involved. 

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