‘Parental rights’ bills moving forward

Students in a classroom. Photo courtesy Getty Images

In October of last year, the parents of a student at Deer Lake Middle School filed a lawsuit claiming the district’s LGBTQ policies illegally exclude parents from gender identity discussions, according to WCTV’s Julie Montanaro.

The lawsuit alleged that school officials met with their daughter, who previously expressed confusion about her gender identity, to discuss her restroom and field trip preferences as well as changed her name without the parent’s knowledge or permission.

The lawsuit named the Leon County School Board, Superintendent Rocky Hanna and Assistant Superintendent Kathleen Rodgers as the defendants.

On Jan. 11, House Bill 1557, also known as “parental rights in education,” was filed by Representative Joe Harding (R-Marion) to help alleviate parents’ concerns regarding school district personnel withholding information on the status of their child’s well-being and/or coordinating personal conversations without notifying the parent.

“This bill reinforces parental rights by ensuring that parents remain involved in their child’s education and overall development at school,” Harding said in a statement. “Parents should be privy to any updates in the way their child is being treated during school time.”

The bill prohibits school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional or physical well-being as well as prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3 in a manner that is not age-appropriate for students, according to the latest bill text.

“Our goal with HB 1557 is to uphold parents’ fundamental right to oversee the direct care, upbringing, and education of their child,” Harding said.

The bill also ensures that each school district notifies parents of each healthcare service offered at their child’s school at the beginning of the school year with the option to withhold consent or decline any service.

“We certainly want to include parents, and with the parental bill of rights, I understand that and respect that, but we also have to respect the rights of the individuals, safety of the children we care for each and every day,” Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna told WCTV last November. “While the children are in our care we act in loco parentis, on behalf of a parent while they’re under our care.”

A similar bill, SB 1834, was filed by Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Sumter) on Jan. 7 and is now in the Appropriations Committee after clearing the Education Committee on Feb. 8.

HB 1557 has been added to the Special Order Calendar for Feb. 22 and had its first reading in the Committee Substitute 2.

If passed, the bill would be effective July 1.