A controversial “Parents’ Bill of Rights”: What is it? And what does it mean for students and families?

By: - May 6, 2021 5:19 pm

Students in a classroom. Credit: Getty Images.

The Florida Legislature has signaled to parents of schoolchildren that they have a right to know how their children are educated.

That’s been the case for decades, but a new, so-called “Parents’ Bill of Rights” approved by both the House and Senate, has become controversial, including  concerns that could put some LGBTQ students at risk.

The next step is for Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider the legislation.

The bill articulates that parents and legal guardians have the right to bring up a child how they please, and that the government “may not infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health” of their child.

Some of the rights outlined in the bill are:

The right to “direct the education” of their minor child and the right to “direct the upbringing and moral or religious training.”

The bill also dictates that a parent should have a right to inspect instructional materials, including materials regarding sex education, to decide if the material is appropriate for their child.

But one of the major concerns come from the bill’s language regarding a parent’s access to student records. The language says parents have the right to “access and review all school records relating to his or her minor child.”

This language has some advocates of the LGBTQ community concerned — such as Equality Florida and the Florida Coalition for Trans Liberation — that an LGBTQ student may be outed by school officials to their parents if the student confides in a teacher or school counselor about their sexuality or gender.

“We know that not all children come from loving and supportive homes,” Equality Florida said in a written statement about the bill in March, explaining that the bill “could compel schools to out LGBTQ youth who face unsupportive or dangerous home environments.”

An analysis of the legislation shows that school districts would have to develop procedures “for parents to learn about specific parental rights and responsibilities.”

Here are some of those rights and responsibilities:

/The right to opt his or her minor child out of any portion of the school district’s comprehensive health education…that relates to sex education instruction in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) education or any instruction regarding sexuality.

/The right of a parent to exempt his or her student from immunizations.

/The right of a parent to enroll his or her student in gifted or special education programs.

/The right of a parent to inspect school district instructional materials.

/The right of a parent to opt out of any district-level data collection relating to his or her minor child not required by law.

HB 241 is sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, an attorney and Republican who represents Indian River County and part of St. Lucie County. During session, the bill passed both the House and Senate largely on party lines, with mostly Republicans in support of the measure.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.