Legislation that spells out the rights of parents to control how their children are educated passed the Senate Education Committee Monday.
Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel sponsored the bill (SB 1634.) It advanced by a narrow majority, with Democratic Sens. Bill Monford and Lori Berman voting no and Republican Sens. David Simmons, Dennis Baxley and Stargel voting yes.
Stargel argues her bill just complies with statutes already in law and clarifies some procedures for parents. But opponents say the language goes beyond what is already in law. Advocates of LGBTQ and reproductive rights say if it’s enacted, it would leave gay, transgender and minority students vulnerable to being outed to their parents and having their histories erased.
Under Stargel’s measure, the bill could limit student access to sex education. It would also give parents rights to information even when their children are in school, positing that “important information relating to a minor child should not be withheld, either inadvertently or purposefully, from his or her parent — including information relating to the minor child’s health, well-being, and education, while the minor child is in the custody of the school district.”
Berman said she’s concerned it gives a parent veto power over any and all instructional material, including the history of the Holocaust, slavery, Hispanic contributions to the U.S., or the Constitution. She said lawmakers have passed rules requiring certain history to be taught in schools.
“And now we’re going to say a parent can opt out?” she said.
Isabel Ruano said she’s concerned the bill makes it easier for parents who are against vaccinations to send their unvaccinated children to school. She is a childhood leukemia survivor and said her immune system was compromised from 12 to 16 years old. She said a child similarly compromised today could get a virus, like measles, from an unvaccinated child and become seriously ill or die.
But Baxley said the state does not and should not decide what is best for children. That is the parents’ right and responsibility.
“These children do not belong to the state,” Baxley said. “These children belong to their families.”
The bill will go next to the Senate Rules Committee. The House companion (HB 1059,) sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall, is scheduled to be heard in its final committee stop Tuesday afternoon.