The Missouri House has approved legislation that would give parents a greater say in the education their children receive. The House gave first-round approval to HB 1858, which creates the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022.
Rep. Ben Baker of Neosho, says the bill is meant to address the concerns of parents who “are not happy with what is happening in the classroom with their children.” He added, “Many times they are left with no recourse. School boards are not being responsive. There are situations where parents are being ignored, not listened to.” He said his bill “empowers parents. I think it empowers them to be able to be engaged in their student’s education.” He also noted that 11 states currently have similar laws outlining parental rights.
HB 1858 provides a list of rights that parents may require school districts to follow. Some of the parental rights outlined in the bill include the right to review curricula, books and instructional materials; the right to visit school during school hours with restrictions; and the right to have sufficient accountability and transparency regarding school boards.
Baker states, “There are a lot of things that could entail when it comes to things that are being taught in the classroom. Whether it’s age-inappropriate material, whether it’s books that should not be in front of students at those ages, or whether it’s critical race theory. Some of the things that are happening, we have to address.”
The bill also prohibits school districts from requiring nondisclosure agreements for a parent’s review of curricula or individualized education program meetings. It would restrict schools from collecting biometric data or other sensitive personal information about a minor child without obtaining parental consent. Additionally, it would require school board meetings dealing with curricula or general safety to take place in public and allow for public comments.
An amendment sponsored by Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, specifies that no school or school employee can compel a teacher or student to personally adopt or affirm ideas in violation of Title IV or Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. This would include ideas such as individuals of any race, ethnicity, color, or national origin are inherently superior or inferior; or that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.
Dogan went on to say, “We’re making sure that teachers and students are not being compelled into believing certain ideas; not that they can’t teach those ideas. You can teach about controversial ideas that might cause people discomfort but you can’t force people to agree to those ideas.”
Dogan added, “We should not have collective racial guilt, but we should not have collective amnesia, or collective racial amnesia. What I think we ought to do is we ought to have collective pride.”
The bill also allows parents to file a civil lawsuit against a school district or school that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Other provisions in the bill would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop an online database that provides access to every school district’s curriculum and professional development materials; require the salaries of public school employees to be included in the state accountability portal; and require school boards to provide a time for an open forum at the beginning of each board meeting and allows parents to bring civil action against school districts that violate the policy.
The bill requires another vote in the House before moving to the Senate.
–By Rep. Doug Richey represents Missouri’s 38th District. The Republican lives in Excelsior Springs and was elected to the House in 2018.