Parental rights still matter in your kids’ education

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    Nowadays, it seems as though parents – and more importantly, their children – are at the mercy of school districts everywhere.  They closed schools for months and forced remote learning upon students, without parental consent.  They’re mandating masks or vaccinations without parents having any real say in the matter.  They’re setting policies on transgender ideology without parental consent or even informing mom and dad.

    This idea has even seeped into the halls of power in Washington, D.C.  When asked whether “parents should be in charge of their child’s education as their primary stakeholder,” U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona refused to answer.  Instead, he argued they are simply “important stakeholders.”

    With all this going on, it can be hard for parents to remember that, in reality, you have rights in your child’s education.  In fact, directing your children’s education and upbringing, in fitting with your values and beliefs, is the most basic right of parenting.  In the year 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed that “the liberty interest…of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children—is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by [the] Court.”

    At the end of the school day and week, children return home to their parents.  Their parents are responsible for everything outside of school, including their health and wellbeing.  While schools and teachers care about students, they just can’t provide the same kind of personalized focus and attention on every child.  It’s not possible.  Parents, however, can and must.  As SCOTUS noted way back in 1925, “The child is not the mere creature of the State.”

    Both views are currently squaring off in legal battles across the country as parents have taken it upon themselves to challenge a growing government viewpoint that seems determined to diminish the parents’ role.

    For example, the Madison Metropolitan School District in Madison, WI, implemented a policy requiring district teachers and staff to automatically accept a child’s request to be addressed as a different gender – without notifying or getting the consent of the child’s parents.  Rather, the policy got it backwards, mandating that a child “consents” to letting his or her parents know that he or she was being addressed with a different gender.

    In short, teachers were instructed to lie to parents and hide from them whether their child was being addressed as different gender in class.  Isn’t this something parents should be made aware of?

    When the policy was challenged in the case of Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District by Alliance Defending Freedom, the state court agreed.  The court prohibited the Madison school district from “applying or enforcing any policy, guideline, or practice reflected or recommended in its document entitled ‘Guidance & Policies to Support Transgender, Non-binary & Gender-Expansive Students’ in any manner that allows or requires District staff to conceal information or to answer untruthfully in response to any question that parents ask about their child at school, including information about the name and pronouns being used to address their child at school.”  The district couldn’t lie to or conceal information from parents anymore.

    Along these lines, parents have the right to transparent access to their child’s educational record in such areas as discipline, counseling proceedings, and grades.   But parents’ rights as it pertains to their children’s education go beyond the expectation that things won’t be hidden from them.  Parents often – and should always – have the right to opt their children out of an extracurricular activity as well as learning curriculum or a class or course that defies your family’s religious views, such as sex ed, family planning, or diversity courses.

    Additionally, parents always have the right to move their kids to a school environment that best meets their needs, irrespective of the kind of school it is (i.e., public, charter, private, or homeschool).  In some states, parents may even be entitled to obtain tax credits or vouchers to help afford non-public school.

    No matter how challenging the educational and political environments may be today, it’s always important for parents to know and understand that their rights do not end where and when the classroom doors close.