Children will be guided by someone. Either their parents have that right and responsibility or those running the government, schools, and medical community claim it. The clash of those two worldviews was on full display this week when lawmakers heard HB 2161 in the Arizona House Education Committee. See the fact sheet on our Bill Tracker.
Representative Steve Kaiser sponsored the CAP-supported bill, telling the committee it is in response to complaints of apparent abuse of power and even skirting current parental rights laws.
HB 2161 clarifies existing parental rights laws, ensuring a parent has access to a minor child’s medical and educational records, and parents must first give consent before the school can survey their child. Perhaps most importantly, the bill gives parents a right to sue for violation of their rights.
Rep. Kaiser started off with stories of children being questioned without their parents’ consent and assigned reading material with sexually explicate content. He said, “Think of you as a parent. It is not [the teacher’s] role to parent. It is not their role to coach or parent your children.”
Several parents addressed the committee with stories depicting clear violations of their rights due them as a parent.
One Scottsdale mother testified that she opted-out her daughter from a 7th grade social studies lesson. The teacher acknowledged the opt-out in an email but had the 7th grader do the lesson anyway. In Feb 2021, the mother filed a complaint but is still waiting for an answer. Meantime, the teacher is still teaching.
Another Scottsdale mother opted-out her 3rd grader from Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Her older daughter then saw the 3rd grader talking to a school counselor, asking her the same questions that were on the SEL survey, including questions about the household income and guns in home. The mother found out that the 3rd grader was given tickets toward a prize in order to answer the question.
A Tucson mother testified that all three of her children and her nephew were surveyed without the parents’ knowledge. One survey asked for the students to agree or disagree to the following statements:
“There needs to be gun safety laws”
“Government should end religious influence”
“Abortion should be legal to keep a mother’s choice”
The mother was not able to see the questions beforehand or give consent. She also testified that her nephew’s teacher gave a survey asking about parents’ income, the number of guns in the house, etc.
Another mother testified that she could not access her son’s medical records online after he turned 12 years old. A hospital employee told her they automatically shut out the parents when the child turns 12, claiming it was Arizona law but couldn’t cite which law.
These parents and others faced head-on challenges from senators and activists claiming children have a right to privacy that should allow government and schools to step in and protect them from their parents.
An ACLU representative argued that children should be able to talk to teachers about their gender identity behind their parents’ backs, “The bill is a harmful and unnecessary violation of young people’s rights. It’s putting them at risk… the student may make the decision to share with a teacher and their rights to privacy should be respected.”
Others argued the bill would protect abusers. But CAP’s Legislative Counsel, Bethany Miller testified to Arizona laws already on the books that ensure the ability to report abuse. HB 2161 would not undermine those laws.
Rep. Judy Schwiebert argued a child might feel more comfortable sharing sexual orientation or gender identity issues with a teacher instead of a parent, “There are periods of time during the day the parent is not there, and the teacher is. What if the kid is in distress, is the teacher required to report that?”
To which Rep. Kaiser responded, “I have three boys in a public charter school. If one of my sons was in distress, I would hope the teacher calls me and says that. If the teacher withheld that I would be horrified. The job of the teacher is to teach my son, not console my son.”
The bill passed out of committee with a vote of 6-4. It now goes to Rules Committee before heading for a full House vote.
- Read here The Heritage Foundation’s commentary about protecting unborn children in a post-Roe
- Read here about the toll Covid-19 has taken on schools and students, and how it highlights the need for educational freedom.
- Read or listen here Al Mohler’s take on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement.
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