Over the years, many have advocated for parents to have more control over the content of courses in public schools. From critical race theory to sex education, many parents argue that they should have ultimate power over what their children learn.
In Utah, schools already need parental consent before teaching sex education, and in 2021, the Utah Board of Education took steps to ban part of the CRT. However, Senator John Johnson wants to further protect the “primary power and responsibility” of parents for educating their children through Senate Bill 157.
The controversial bill allows parents to divert their children from the content of a course they deem “unpleasant”. What is even more worrying is it will also give parents the right to sue teachers and school officials to claim monetary damages for content they disagree with.
Allowing parents to have “ultimate power” over what students learn is not only a legal disaster, but also completely contrary to the point of public education. If the Utah legislature passes this bill, students will miss important content and our legal system will be hampered by an excessive number of frivolous lawsuits from parents. Parents who want to deprive their children of public school privileges may instead send their children to home schooling.
Although SB 157 strictly clarifies the ultimate authority of parents with respect to their child’s education, it does not explain the definition of “unpleasant content”. This very personal phrase will allow parents to distract their children from any content they disagree with, such as important historical concepts such as the Holocaust or the doctrine of evolution.
Children’s education should not be interrupted because of parents ’personal or political beliefs. Withdrawing students from classes will not allow them to create cohesive and conducive learning environments. They will miss important course content that will create a solid foundation for their future educational efforts.
For parents who want to control what their children teach, home schooling is always an option. Utah is an incredibly friendly state for parents who prefer this route. Parents only need to apply under oath to the local school district.
Parents judge teachers
This bill puts parents and teachers at war with each other. Parents will be able to carefully study and punish any “unpleasant” word, textbook or lesson. On the other hand, teachers will have to bow to the opinions and preferences of parents, many of whom have not studied education. Teachers are professionals and should be respected as scientists who share their vast knowledge and experience with our future generations. They are not objects for parental concerns and complaints.
Let’s not forget the painful past of “parental freedom” in our country. The Brown v. Council ruling opposed the racist and often violent views of white parents who opposed progress and equality, preferring their own beliefs to greater good. This law creates the ground for parents who hinder equal and fair education.
In addition, this bill adds amazing and outrageous protection opportunities for elected officials. Their freedom of speech “cannot be restricted or violated,” apparently referring to last year’s incident with Natalie Klein. The Utah Board of Education reprimanded her after hateful criticism of LGBTQ + students. This bill will give immunity to individuals who must create fair and factual course content for students. This hypocritical addition to the bill allows elected officials to make insulting comments while strongly criticizing teachers for simply teaching a state-approved program.
Instead of preferring “parental freedom,” we must ensure that our children have the right to learn and grow as independent people, away from their parents ’political beliefs. Public education should never prevent students from studying institutional racism, basic history lessons, or even their own anatomy.
While this bill does address many parents ’concerns about their rights in education, it does not support either students or teachers. Parents ’opinions do not belong to the facts-based public school content, and allowing them to have“ ultimate authority ”allows for a biased, opinion-based education system. The Utah legislature should oppose the bill and protect students and teachers from parental attacks on true education.