Controversial legislation creating a new section of state law that details the rights of parents passed the House Education Committee Thursday.
The bill (HB 1059,) sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall, creates a “Parent’s Bill of Rights.” The state or other governments would not be allowed to limit a parent’s right to direct the moral and religious upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her child.
The bill could limit sexual education in schools in cases where a parent objects to the subject matter. It could also make it easier for parents to opt-out of vaccinating their children. Supporters say it’s necessary to ensure parents retain the right to raise their children independent of government interference while also maintaining reasonable child welfare protections. But critics worry it could strip kids of inclusive education.
The legislation blocks students from receiving medical care unless schools have their parents’ consent or in the event of a medical emergency. The bill could give parents additional authority to object to classroom materials and opt their children out of learning some health education information like sexual orientation or HIV/AIDS.
Parents would also be given more information about clubs and extracurricular activities available to their children. School districts would also have to create various plans to promote information such as school choice options, the right of parents to not vaccinate their children and the right to opt-out of district data collection.
Under the bill, a parent would still be held accountable for illegal activity or neglect or abuse. Additionally, the bill would require the state or local government to prove any action that may infringe on the parents’ rights is reasonable and necessary, narrowly tailored and serves a compelling state interest.
Bev Kilmer of Freedom Speaks, a First Amendment nonprofit group, said she supports the legislation because there are a lot of programs and curriculum in school districts that parents may feel is inappropriate for their children if they knew about them.
“(Parents) are told that some of the programs may be generic and that they’re teaching the students about anatomy, but unfortunately a lot of very inappropriate sex education and other programs have been introduced to these kids that parents are not aware of,” she said.
But some advocates are concerned the legislation could undermine protections for LGBTQ youth.
Melina Rayna Sranhild Farley-Barratt with the Florida National Organization for Women argued when some people talk about “inappropriate sexual content” they mean a school district is acknowledging gay and transgender people exist and they want to stop students from hearing about that. She said the bill could endanger transgender minors whose parents don’t accept their gender identity.
“You’re talking about parents have rights,” she said. “Parents have responsibilities to provide a safe, accepting household for their kids.”
Grall’s legislation passed the Education Committee 15-2 with Democratic State Reps. Bruce Antone and Susan Valdéz voting no. It now goes to the Health and Human Services Committee. A companion bill (SB 1634) by State Sen. Kelli Stargel has been introduced and referred to committees.