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  • A.G. Gancarski, Florida Politics

House passes bill to protect ‘parental rights’ against school systems

The House advanced sweeping, if aspirational, legislation codifying a parent’s “bill of rights” on Monday. The vote in favor was 77-41.

The House version (CS/HB 1059), sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, now includes a technical amendment that reaffirmed parental rights to any type of school (public, private, and even home schooling).

Another Grall amendment vouchsafed parental rights to spike objectionable instructional material “based on beliefs regarding morality, sex, and religion or the belief that such materials are harmful.”

The amendments offered reassured some Democratic critics of the bill, but not enough to earn their votes.

Rep. Joe Geller wanted more attention to “children’s rights.”

Rep. Anna Eskamani said constituents “fear” this bill.

Rep. Jennifer Webb said that after “really thinking through the bill,” she couldn’t support it.

“We have a gray space,” Webb said, between “phenomenal” and “egregious” parents.

In the latter case, which includes kids kicked out of their homes for being LGBT, the state should be able to step in a way the bill would preclude.

The bill’s gist: that state or other governments would not be allowed to limit a parent’s right to direct the moral and religious upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her child.

The bill permits opt-outs for students on issues ranging from sex education to vaccination. As well, explicit consent for medical care and data collection for students in a school setting is included in the bill.

The bill gives parents rights to information even when their children are in school, positing that “important information relating to a minor child should not be withheld, either inadvertently or purposefully, from his or her parent, including information relating to the minor child’s health, well-being, and education, while the minor child is in the custody of the school district.”

Barring a “narrowly defined … state interest,” the legislation asserts parental prerogatives regarding how to educate the child (including home schooling), how to guide the child’s religious grounding, the right to see all school or governmental records of the child, and a consent requirement ahead of taking the child’s blood or DNA.

The bill could limit sexual education in schools in cases where a parent objects to the subject matter. It could also make it easier for parents to opt-out of vaccinating their children. Supporters say it’s necessary to ensure parents retain the right to raise their children independent of government interference while also maintaining reasonable child welfare protections. But critics worry it could strip kids of inclusive education.

The legislation blocks students from receiving medical care unless schools have their parents’ consent or in the event of a medical emergency.

The bill could give parents additional authority to object to classroom materials and opt their children out of learning some health education information like sexual orientation or HIV/AIDS.

Theoretically, the Senate could receive the House bill and vote on it. The Kelli Stargel version stalled out in committee, however.

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Florida Politics’ Sarah Mueller contributed to this post.

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