By Guy Page
A “Parents’ Bill of Rights” bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) would allow parents to sue school districts for failing to disclose information about curriculum and instructors.
Hawley introduced the Parents’ Bill of Rights Act Nov. 16 to defend parents’ fundamental rights against efforts to shut them out of their children’s education. Senator Hawley’s bill would empower parents to sue federally-funded schools that do not protect certain basic rights, such as the right to know what their child is being taught and the right to know what outside groups are receiving school contracts.
Federal law already requires public schools to make all materials and curriculum available on demand. Hawley’s bill would give that requirement the enforcement power of a private lawsuit – a tactic until now employed mostly by Climate Change and “systemic racial injustice” activists.
In Vermont, for example, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2019 provides that private parties may sue the State of Vermont if it fails to meet stringent carbon reduction goals. Also, legislation has been introduced (but not yet passed) to make it easier to successfully sue police officers for using too much force.
Critics of private-citizen lawsuits of government call it an act of self-surrender of necessary, appropriate immunity against retaliation for unpopular acts.
It is uncertain if Hawley’s bill could clear the Senate, much less the Democrat-controlled House which draws strong support from professional educators’ organizations such as the National Education Association.
“America has long recognized the right of parents to direct their children’s education but we are now seeing a concerted effort by the Left to shut parents out,” Hawley said. “Whether it’s Joe Biden’s Justice Department attempting to classify parents as ‘domestic terrorists’ or activists funded by dark money who seek to quietly introduce critical race theory into school curricula, education has taken a back seat to radical politics in many schools and parents are taking notice. It’s time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats, and empower them to start a new era of openness in education.”
News of Hawley’s Parents Bill of Rights surfaced on the Vermont FAIR (Freedom Against Intolerance and Racism) community forum on Messenger. The forum is moderated by Ben Morley, Co-Leader Northeast for FAIR. There are four FAIR chapters in Vermont. At present, the Chittenden County and Springfield chapters show activity on their public social media pages.
Full disclosure of public school instruction has become a matter of concern to many Vermont parents with the rise of Marxist-based Critical Race Theory-informed ‘Diversity, and Equity Inclusion” programming in public schools. In some school districts, co-operation with parents has been less than forthcoming. For example, now-former Northeast Kingdom school superintendent John Castle at a public meeting accused Morley and Sen. Russ Ingalls of “McCarthyism” for citing the Marxist roots of DEI.
Morley had disclosed in August that individuals affiliated with NEK school DEI contractors had a published history of defending violence against police, including family members.
Earlier this month, a crowd of parents at Lowell Graded School demanded Castle resign for forcing two parents Nov. 4 to remove their mask-less child from school under threat of imminent arrest of loss of child custody. Just a few days later Castle announced he would not return for the final year of his school contract. He has been hired to lead the Vermont Rural Education Cooperative, an NEK-based educational group that provides teacher instruction and funding for (among other topics) DEI training and instruction.
An Essex/Westford school board member told Superintendent Beth Cobb Nov. 9 that parents want more access to teachers’ curriculum and materials. Cobb answered: “The curriculum is a difficult thing when somebody says please show me your social and learning curriculum. It can’t be done; it’s an ongoing process.” Cobb later informed Vermont Daily Chronicle, “We do need to make instructional materials available for parents when requested….What I was explaining in the meeting was that it isn’t as easy as handing over a curriculum. It’s not a book.”
A U.S. House Parents’ Bill of Rights for disclosure of school materials has also been introduced by Republicans. To date, there is no similar legislation in the Vermont Legislature.