Parents’ Bill of Rights proposed for NC families in K-12 education

Families demonstrated Tuesday February 15, 2022 at the Unmask the Kids rally outside a meeting of the Wake County School Board, calling for the school board to schedule a meeting to discuss making masks optional for Wake County public school students.

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  • Bill would let parents direct how their child is educated.

A new Parents’ Bill of Rights out this week is intended to protect the right of parents to direct their children’s education and protect their safety in the classroom.

The document is a framework for legislation, proposed by the John Locke Foundation, that would codify parental rights’ in state statutes. It lands as a sizable majority of North Carolinians report dissatisfaction with schools — 66% of likely voters say K-12 public education is headed in the wrong direction.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a watershed moment for the parent rights movement in K-12 education. Scores of parents revolted over public school closures, mask mandates, radical curriculum choices, controversial sexual theories in classrooms, and school board meetings closed to in-person attendance, to name a few.

“Many parents feel increasingly powerless over what their children are being exposed to in the classroom,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “These feelings have been exacerbated by an increasingly radicalized curriculum and pandemic-era policies. Parents must be empowered to make educational decisions for their children, and should be able to expect full transparency from schools, teachers and administrative staff.”

The bill of rights stipulates that every parent has a right to:

  • Direct their child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Direct how and where their child is educated.
  • Transparency when dealing with their child’s teachers and school.
  • A classroom and school environment that is safe and nurtures their child’s well-being.
  • Be actively engaged in their child’s education.
  • Resources and accountability of school districts, administrators, and teachers.

“Parents are frustrated by what they see and don’t see going on in the classroom,” said Dr. Bob Luebke, senior fellow at the Center for Effective Education. “They are tired of being marginalized. Parents are standing up and reminding everyone of their right to control their child’s education and their commitment to working alongside teachers and administrators to give their children the best possible education.”

Dozens of other states have either passed or are considering legislation similar to the North Carolina Parents’ Bill of Rights proposals. Some of the efforts are based on the electoral success of newly minted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican who walked to victory in November after running a campaign that tapped into parental anger and angst over public K-12 education.

The version of the bill in Florida has drawn the most national attention. That legislation, incorrectly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its opponents, would prohibit educators from teaching students in kindergarten through 3rd grade on topics of sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to numerous other protections for parents’ autonomy over their children.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law March 28, saying in a statement that families “should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”

This month, Georgia lawmakers passed a measure stipulating that parents have the right to see the curriculum their children are learning. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the measure into law.

In other states, a Parents’ Bill of Rights has met stiff resistance from Democrats and teachers’ unions. This week, Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would have codified several parental rights in state law. Those include the right “to determine the names and pronouns used for the child while at school” and the right to “opt out of a class or instructional materials for reasons based on either religion or personal conviction.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, also a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill this month, while bills have also fallen prey to veto pens in states like Pennsylvania.