Parents’ Rights under Arizona Law
Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) supports the right of parents to guide their children’s lives and to be responsible for every aspect of their care, including all health-related decisions.
Parents’ Bill of Rights:
Recognizing the need to specifically protect parents’ rights in state law, CAP worked with the Arizona Legislature in 2010 to pass the Parents’ Bill of Rights. This statute sets forth the broad rule of parents’ rights: “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children is a fundamental right.” A.R.S. 1-601(A). The government may not interfere with parental rights unless it demonstrates a compelling interest of the highest order that is narrowly tailored to meet that interest and that is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means. A.R.S. 1-601(B). This standard allows for children to be protected from abusive situations, while still ensuring that parents’ rights are not infringed by government officials who may simply believe they know better than a parent.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights recognizes a parent’s right to:
- Direct the education of their child.
- Direct the upbringing of their child.
- Direct the moral or religious training of their child.
- Make healthcare decisions for their child.
- Access and review all medical records relating to their child.
- Provide written permission before a biometric scan is performed on their child.
- Provide written permission before any record of their child’s blood or DNA is created, stored, or shared.
- Provide written permission before any videos or voice recordings are made of their child, with certain exceptions (for example, security or surveillance of school property).
- Be notified promptly if there is suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed against their child.
- Access information about a Department of Child Safety investigation involving the parent and their child.
Parental Rights and Education:
Arizona law protects the constitutional rights held by parents in directing the education of their children. This includes the right to select the type of education that the parent deems is best for the child, including district school, charter school, private school, homeschool, online or the empowerment scholarship account program. A.R.S. 15-802.
In district schools (A.R.S. 15-102), parents have the right to:
- Opt out of any learning material or activity that the parent finds harmful to the student. This includes material that questions beliefs or practices related to sex, morality, or religion.
- Opt in to sex education curriculum if one is provided by the school district. Without written parental permission, children cannot participate in sex education.
- Notification in advance if content discussing sexuality is taught in other classes, such as history or literature, and the right to opt your child out of that instruction.
- Opt in to any video, audio, or electronic materials that are inappropriate for the age of the student. This means the school cannot show a rated-R movie to students under 18 years old without signed, written permission from the child’s parent. A.R.S. 15-113(D).
- Opt out of instruction on the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
- Excuse the student from school attendance for religious purposes.
- Be informed about the nature and purpose of extracurricular student clubs and activities.
- Access instructional materials.
- Public review of courses of study and textbooks.
- Refuse to provide information for the Student Accountability Information System that does not relate to the provision of educational services to the student. ARS 15-1042(D).
For additional rights in district schools see ARS 15-102(A)(7).
In charter schools (ARS 15-113), parents have more limited rights than in district schools, but they do have the right to:
- Withdraw the student from any activity the parent deems objectionable because of sexual content, violent content, or profane or vulgar language. The charter school may require parents to waive this requirement as a condition of enrollment if the school provides a complete list of books and materials to be used during the school year.
- Opt in to any video, audio, or electronic materials that are inappropriate for the age of the student. This means the school cannot show a rated-R movie to students under 18 years old without signed, written permission from the child’s parent.
Parental Rights and Medical Care:
Parents have important rights regarding the medical care of their children, although Arizona law does contain several provisions that undermine parents’ rights in this area.
In addition to the medical care provisions of the Parents’ Bill of Rights listed above, Arizona’s parents have specific rights found elsewhere in state law, including:
- Requiring written permission before a mental health screening is performed on your child in a non-clinical setting (i.e., outside of a doctor’s office or clinic). ARS 36-2272.
- Requiring written permission before any mental health treatment is performed on your child, unless it is an emergency. ARS 36-2272.
- Requiring written parental consent before a physician or entity performs or seeks to perform a surgical procedure on a minor. ARS 36-2271.
- Requiring parental consent before a pharmacist administers an immunization or vaccine to a minor. ARS 32-1974(M).
- Requiring written parental consent before a minor donates blood. ARS 44-134.
- Opting out of immunizations at the beginning of the school year due to personal beliefs. ARS 15-873(A)(1).
- Requiring notarized parental consent before a minor can have an abortion, unless the minor obtains a judicial bypass. ARS 36-2152.
Unfortunately, parents’ rights are undermined by two state laws that allow minors to consent to medical treatment without parental consent. State law allows a minor to seek treatment for a sexually-transmitted disease (ARS 44-132.01) or for substance abuse (ARS 44-133.01) without parental consent or involvement. No Arizona law requires parental consent for prescription medications for minors, including contraceptives.
Parents have the solemn right and responsibility to raise their children according to their own sincerely held convictions. Government must always recognize this right and make every effort to support parents in the choices they make while raising children. In Arizona, citizens should be aware of the extensive parental rights in state law and their ability to freely exercise them.
ICYMI – Latest News & Articles of Interest
- On August 1, the Board of Supervisors of Pima County passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for professional counselors to help minors with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion. If counselors provide therapy for a fee, and attempt to change the minor’s behavior, gender expression, attraction and feelings toward persons of the same sex, they are subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,500 per violation. Besides the fact that the ordinance infringes on the constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion, it clearly conflicts with Arizona’s Parents’ Bill of Rights.
- In “Transgender Suicides: What To Do About Them”, Chad Felix Greene provides helpful analysis for the transgender debate.
- 5 Minutes for Families will be on hiatus for the remainder of August. We will return on September 1!