For the second year in a row the House has passed “parental bill of rights” legislation.
After nearly an hour of debate, the House passed the bill (HB 241) in a 78-37 vote. Last year, the House passed the measure nearly along party lines, but it died in the Senate.
“This bill is about changing the culture, returning the focus to family and empowering the parents and families,” bill sponsor Rep. Erin Grall said.
Grall‘s bill, 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, which allows parents to review all school records on their children and for schools to notify parents in certain instances. 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 shared his personal experience during debate.
“This is a mostly good bill, but I do have serious concerns about what some of the implications are of this well-intended bill, and what they might mean for some of our most vulnerable youth, LGBTQ kids,” Smith said.
Smith, who welcomed his husband sitting in the West Gallery during Thursday’s floor session, continued, “I know it. I’ve seen it. I have lived it. Imagine an LGBTQ student who is anxious and nervous about judgment, physical violence — even worse than that — family rejection that they may face at home.”
Smith referenced a Trevor Project statistic that says up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.
During questions on the bill Wednesday, Grall said conversations students have with school personnel would only be confidential if it was had with a health care provider.
Thursday Grall explained her thinking behind the bill.
“I believe that the place for the hard conversations should be in the family, so that children are equipped to deal with the hard conversations that will come throughout the rest of their life,” Grall said.
Other supporters of the bill said parents should be the major influence in a child’s life.
“The family unit is the recognized building block of all of civilization. The family begins with parents. All of our major religions have as the foundation the family. All of the major books talk about the parents and the role they play in educating and raising children,” Rep. Cord Byrd said. “That’s not to say we don’t acknowledge that not everybody has a perfect set of parents or even loving parents, and the law recognizes that. But as a matter of law, we want to ensure that parents hold the primary place when it comes to raising and instruction of their children.”
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.