‘Parental rights’ advocates don’t really trust parents
The governor and GOP lawmakers don’t trust parents and they aren’t protecting children. (Stock photo via Canva)
We’ve been hearing often from Iowa Republicans that they “trust” parents.
Gov. Kim Reynolds spent most of the COVID-19 pandemic saying she trusted parents (more than school administrators) to decide whether their kids should attend classes in person and wear masks to protect themselves and others.
The centerpiece of her agenda this year was giving some parents the means to move their students to private schools – where rules requiring accommodations for students with disabilities or special needs do not apply. She said parents know best what schools are best for their kids (even though some still do not have a choice).
A “parents’ rights” manifesto introduced in the House would have subjected even child abuse and neglect cases to “strict scrutiny” in the courts because “the right to direct the upbringing, rearing, associations, care, education, custody and control of a parent’s child is a parent’s fundamental right.” That bill, thankfully, did not advance ahead of last week’s committee deadline.
Reynolds and Republicans in the Statehouse are now charging ahead to empower parents whose kids are afraid to tell them about their gender identity and those who want to purge certain books – especially those with LGBTQ or racial themes – from school libraries.
Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull, accused backers of school gender-affirmation policies of saying “parents are evil.”
“I cannot believe, in the state of Iowa, we have people that think that parents are going to abuse and hurt their kids because they find something out at school,” Wheeler said. “If they do, the law already applies that they don’t get away with that. But my goodness, what an awful, awful thing to stand against.”
But these GOP lawmakers and “parents’ rights” advocates don’t trust parents, not really. And some of them are even saying that out loud.
One member of Moms for Liberty, an outspoken advocacy group for “parents’ rights,” told lawmakers last month that she wants to remove certain books that she considers “obscene” from school libraries because some parents are too busy or oblivious to restrict their own kids from reading them.
Amy Day, a parent in the Carroll Community School District said the children of these lower-income, working parents are “vulnerable.”
“My mother was at a factory all day and (working) at a bar all night. My mother was gone all day long trying to feed us and I guarantee you she never would have come in to sign anything that opted me out,” Day said. “… So what I’m trying to say is, the vulnerable students, while you all know that you can look at the policy, that doesn’t mean that every parent can go in and they are not even aware of that process. And they’re making the minimum wage at a factory and then they’re going to a bar to work at night so their kids can eat.”
Reynolds is gleefully dancing to that tune. She’s now pushing to allow parents who succeed in restricting a book in their own district to create a challenge for that same book in all school libraries statewide. Even with her proposed “transparency” legislation to give parents a list of all school library materials, she is not trusting them to act on their own.
Instead, she’s trusting parents like Amy Day, who wants to exercise her superior judgment on behalf of lower-income working parents whose children are somehow “vulnerable.”
Meanwhile, Statehouse Republicans are working to outlaw gender-affirming health care for people under 18 – regardless of whether their parents are supporting the treatment. They also want to dictate which bathrooms kids in school can use, regardless of their parents’ views. Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, speaking on the bathroom bill, put it this way:
“I believe that misleading children is harmful, denying truth and science in favor of feelings, that is harmful to children,” Holt said. “Telling young children they can choose their gender in denial of biological reality, that is dooming many children to a lifetime of mental anguish and suffering. Telling children the truth, that is biology and truth is love.”
So now parents are lying to their kids? That’s a strange way for lawmakers to express their trust in parents.
Keep in mind, these GOP lawmakers are the very same ones who think it’s just fine for gun owners to leave loaded weapons in cars in school parking lots. They have no problem loosening child labor laws to let younger kids work longer hours at more dangerous jobs. They’re A-OK with cutting unemployment benefits for parents with more than three children. How’s that for family values?
It’s baffling why Iowans are trusting Reynolds and these GOP lawmakers to protect children. The only ones getting protection are the powerful interest groups that the politicians can trust to get them reelected.
This commentary was published earlier by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom network, which includes the Florida Phoenix.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.