The Senate Rules Committee ended Monday just as members were poised to vote on legislation creating a ‘parents bill of rights.’
Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel is sponsoring the measure (SB 1634) that specifies that the state 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. It was taken up with just about 15 minutes left in the hearing.
Senate committee members can’t vote to extend the hearings like members in the House can.
Committee member and Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley says members did not try to run out the clock because there were the votes to pass the bill. Still, Stargel got incoming from both sides.
Democrats pressed Stargel on what “inalienable” rights discussed in the bill parents have outside of the legislation.
“Who determines what these inalienable rights are,” Sen. Gary Farmer asked.
Stargel maintained the bill is just grouping and clarifying what is already in law today.
Republican Sen. Tom Lee said his top concern is that the legislation doesn’t address private and charter schools.
“My biggest concern is the way this bill is drafted, parents only have these fundamental and inalienable rights in a traditional public school,” he said.
Stargel says she’s made changes to address some of the concerns raised in previous committee stop.
Barring a “narrowly defined … state interest,” the legislation asserts parental prerogatives regarding how to educate their child (including home schooling), how to guide their child’s religious grounding, the right to see all school or governmental records of their child, and a consent requirement ahead of taking their child’s blood or DNA.
The bill permits opt-outs for students on issues ranging from sex education to vaccinations. It also requires explicit consent for medical care and data collection for students in a school setting.
The bill originally included procedures to allow parents to withdraw their children from learning from history like the Holocaust or slavery. It’s been amended so parents can still object to instructional material based on morality, sex, and religion or the belief that it’s harmful. But an amendment has removed language allowing parents to withdraw children from learning certain lessons or field trips.
The bill gives parents the right 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.”
That has drawn opposition from LGBTQ advocates who worry students will be “outed” to their parents.