The House is set to vote as soon as Thursday on controversial parental rights legislation.
Rep. Erin Grall‘s bill (HB 241), known as the “parents’ bill of rights,” would make clear that state and public schools cannot infringe on the “fundamental rights” of parents to direct the upbringing of their child. That extends to decisions about education, health care and mental health.
Under the bill, only a parent could make religious upbringing or health decisions for a child. A parent would have to grant permission for their child to get any type of biometric scan, blood type records or for DNA to be collected. The legislation limits when video can be taken of a child and requires consent from a parent before law enforcement can access education records in most cases.
But some advocacy groups are concerned about notification requirements in the bill. LGBTQ advocates say they fear the requirement to notify parents regarding mental health services could prematurely out children as gay or transgender before they’ve chosen to come out to their parents. Children in that scenario may want that information to remain confidential.
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asked a series of questions to understand how the bill would affect students who spoke to their counselors about sensitive issues that parents may not like, using an example of a child who was gay.
Grall said that conversation would only be confidential if it was had with a health care provider.
“If you were engaged in counseling with a mental health provider that was classified as a health care provider, you may have some protections under HIPPA, that would be different than FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act),” Grall said.
This is the second time Grall has led the effort. Last year, the House passed the measure nearly along party lines, but it died in the Senate.
This year’s Senate version (SB 582), carried by Estero Republican Sen. Ray Rodrigues, awaits its final hearing, before the Senate Rules Committee, after the Education Committee approved it last week.
The legislation would take effect in July.