In March of this year, the US House of Representatives passed the “Parents Bill of Rights Act.” H.R. 5. The Act is quite broad in scope and general terms, and governs certain strictures which would apply to public schools across the nation. It contains many facets. It is not limited to controversial issues such as a teacher’s discussion of a student’s gender identity with that student, and without parent knowledge or consent.
What is the Parents Bill of Rights Act?
For instance, the Bill would require states to “ensure that each local educational agency” post the curriculum for an elementary or secondary school on its own or on a publicly accessible website. Section 104 of the Act entitled “Parents-Right-to-Know” would require that, at minimum, the parents have a right to their child’s curriculum, and to meet with teachers regarding same. This section would also require the parents be provided with “a list of books and other reading materials available in the library of their child’s school,” and the parents opportunity to inspect same.
The Act also requires that the parents have a right to know if a school employee “(i) change[s] a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name; or (ii) allow[s] a child to change the child’s sex based accommodations, including locker rooms and bathrooms[.]” Under the Act the parents would also have the right to know if a school employee acts to “treat, advise, or address a student’s mental health, suicidal ideation, or instances of self-harm,” among other things.
In promulgating the Act, Congress expresses a First Amendment Right: “The right of parents to educate their children is a pre-political natural right that the US Supreme Court has recognized as ‘beyond debate and rooted in the ‘history and culture of Western civilization.”
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution applied the first 8 Articles of the Bill of Rights to state and local governments. The substantive due process clause in the Amendment recognizes that parents have a fundamental right to be involved in making decisions about the education of their children.
Several suits are currently pending in US District Courts across the nation challenging controversial school actions which are not brought to the parents’ attention. Many are on appeal and an ultimate court decision – such as one from the US Supreme Court – has yet to be promulgated.
The House Bill has been referred to the Senate for further scrutiny and decision.
Andrew P. Botti, Esq.