NATIONAL NEWS

House to vote on bill that aims to increase oversight for parents in the classroom

Mar 24, 2023, 6:04 AM

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: (L-R) Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA), Rep. Elise Stafanik (R-NY), Speaker of ...

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: (L-R) Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA), Rep. Elise Stafanik (R-NY), Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA) hold an event to introduce the Parents Bill of Rights Act in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol on March 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. According to the Speaker's office, "the Parents Bill of Rights was designed to empower parents and ensure that they are able to be involved in their kids' education." (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNN) — The House is expected to vote Friday on a bill that aims to increase so-called parental rights in the classroom, as House Republicans spotlight an issue that has emerged as a key party priority.

Among other things, H.R. 5, also known as the “Parents Bill of Rights Act,” would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require schools to provide parents with a list of books and reading materials available in the school library as well as posting curriculum publicly.

It would also require elementary and middle schools that receive federal funding to obtain parental consent before “changing a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name on any school form; or allowing a child to change the child’s sex-based accommodations, including locker rooms or bathrooms.”

Additionally, the legislation affirms parents’ rights to address school boards and receive information about violent activity in their child’s school.

The bill has more than 100 co-sponsors and it is expected to pass in the GOP-led House, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

How a debate over ‘parental rights’ has played out nationwide

For Republicans, parental rights in education emerged as a significant political issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, when school closures, along with mask and vaccine mandates, upended family routines and renewed scrutiny over school leadership. The issue gained prominence for Republicans after Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s 2021 gubernatorial election following a campaign that placed “parents’ rights” at its center.

Republicans across the country, arguing that discussions around race, gender identity and sexuality are inappropriate for young children, have used the banner of “parental rights” to push for a curtailment of such conversations in schools, even though opinions on the matter vary widely among parents.

Critics have broadly argued Republicans have used the issue to turn the classroom into a battleground and advance a political agenda. LGBTQ rights advocates, in particular, have argued it is a conscious effort to stigmatize a vulnerable slice of American society and could have a chilling effect on what they believe to be urgently needed discussions.

In some states, such as Texas, Florida and Iowa, parental permission is now needed to discuss certain topics with students. Other states, such as Georgia, have put parents and school communities in charge of vetting books their children could encounter at school for signs of race-related or sexual themes, appealing to conservatives who have voiced concerns about “radical” literature.

“I think the pandemic brought to light for a lot of us moms and dads, for the first time ever, we sat down and we saw what our children were being taught through the virtual classroom. And when we saw that, so many of us were disheartened with what we were viewing — and so then we did the right thing, right? We went to our school boards and voiced our displeasure, but we were turned away,” Republican Rep. Julia Letlow of Louisiana, who sponsored the House legislation, said earlier this month.

Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, has denounced the bill previously telling CNN, “Parents and voters agree that elected leaders should be focused on getting students the individualized support they need, keeping guns out of schools, and addressing educator shortages.”


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House to vote on bill that aims to increase oversight for parents in the classroom