The truth about 'parental rights' legislation

Considering how egregiously parents' rights have been trampled in recent years, federal parental rights legislation recently reintroduced in Congress sounds promising, but its premise is dangerous.  In fact, it could result in eroding parents' God-given rights to direct the upbringing of their children.

The precedent for parental rights legislation was initiated by Florida governor Ron DeSantis, whose bill was dubbed by critics the "Don't Say Gay" bill.  A noteworthy feature of the DeSantis law is that it prohibits sexuality education in kindergarten through third grade (five- through nine-year-olds).  It is hard to believe that we need a law to prohibit sexuality education for children who, at these young ages, aren't even thinking about sexuality, but nonetheless it is necessary.

Governor DeSantis has done more for protecting children and our country's freedom than any governor I have observed in my lifetime.  He has been right on education policy on many fronts and continues to take the lead on commonsense education policy.  But the reality is that parental rights are determined by our Creator, not the government.  Despite such good intentions from leaders like DeSantis, any parental rights legislation is flawed at its inception, suggesting that parents' rights are determined by government rather than the fundamental, inalienable rights of parents afforded by their Creator.

Prominent conservative legal scholar Joanna Martin, J.D. recently published an article titled "A Massive Transfer of Power over Children from Parents to Governments," where she discusses similar concerns with parental rights legislation.  She writes specifically about the bill passed by the North Carolina Senate, saying, "[W]hat SB 49 does is to transfer power over children from parents to governments.  Parents' 'rights' consist of the privilege of being notified of decisions made respecting their children by governments; and they are granted certain rights to challenge some of the decisions."

At last count, seventy-three Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives are sponsors of the federal parental rights bill, filed March 1, 2023.  Several bill sponsors are also Freedom Caucus members, which raises the question: have they read the bill?  Do they understand the implication of government delineating parental authority?

Right now, when parents file lawsuits citing an infringement of their parental rights, they do so on "a fundamental inalienable right" basis.  According to the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, "[w]e have at least a century of U.S. constitutional jurisprudence explaining that the history and culture of Western civilization reflects a strong tradition of parental rights, and the U.S. Supreme Court has described parental rights as 'beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.'"

If parental rights laws are passed, the point of debate becomes the content and context of that law, not the fundamental right.  We could end up arguing whether or not a school counselor has the right to assist children in accessing medical "treatment" like gender transitioning drugs and surgeries, based on some loophole in the new law.  Fundamental, inalienable rights do not have loopholes.

The mission for the nonprofit organization where I serve as president is to close the U.S. Department of Education and end all federal education mandates.  This is the mission because we understand that nefarious pedagogies originate and are pushed onto states by federal agencies incentivized with federal dollars.

Federal parental rights legislation creates more federal education mandates.  This is a step in the wrong direction if our goal is to restore parental and local control of education.

The federal Republican bill, which passed out of committee 25 to 17, now moves to the full House.  In the meantime, the Democrats have offered alternative legislation, which touts "inclusive, safe, and responsive public schools ... and protecting the civil rights of students and families."

I like the simplicity of the Republican bill, but when reading explanations offered by leading advocates for parental rights legislation, they make it clear that these rights already exist! 

One persuasive point in the federal legislation is parental ability to influence what the child experiences within a public school.  But this is a local control issue.  We must hold school boards accountable.  After all, the true implementation of this control must happen at the local level.  A rogue teacher who ignores approved parental restrictions will not face a federal law.  But school boards could set policy to fire him.

U.S. Parents Involved in Education seeks to return education to its proper local roots and restore parental authority over their children's education by helping parents and local communities to escape federal and other national influences.

Sheri Few is the founder and president of United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), whose mission is to end the U.S. Department of Education and all federal education mandates.  USPIE has established 20 state chapters and is growing rapidly amid the national outcry from parents who want to regain control of their children's education.  Few is a nationally recognized leader on education policy and is often quoted in conservative media.  Few has spent much of the last year exposing Critical Race Theory and serving as executive producer for the new documentary film titled Truth & Lies in American Education.

Image: Eric Ward.

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