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Legislative Update

Assembly committee to hold hearing on “Parental Bill of Rights”, a legal standard for the rights of parents in their child’s education

by | Nov 7, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

Tomorrow, the Assembly Committee on Family Law, chaired by Representative Donna Rozar (R-Marshfield), will hold a public hearing on AB-510, a parental bill of rights that would codify certain legal rights that parents would have over their child’s education, medical care, and religion. The bill would give parents the right to review instructional materials and curriculum, be notified of “controversial topics” and disciplinary actions, and have the ability to opt their child out of certain instruction and medical practices. It also would require school boards to set up a process to receive and review submitted complaints of parental rights violations and allow parents to bring civil action against a governmental body that violates these rights. The bill was put forward for cosponsorship by Representative Rob Wittke (R-Racine) and Senator Van Wanggard (R-Racine) back in September and has since picked up the support of numerous GOP legislators.

A full list of the proposed rights and provisions is provided below.

Assembly Bill 510 — Relating to: rights reserved to a parent or guardian of a child.
By Representatives Wittke; cosponsored by Senators Wanggaard

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau: “This bill establishes a legal standard for state infringement on fundamental rights of parents and guardians, explicitly establishes a number of parental and guardian rights relating to a child’s religion, medical care and records, and education, and creates a cause of action for the violation of these rights.
The bill prohibits the state from infringing on the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of their children without demonstrating that the infringement is required by a compelling governmental interest of the highest order as applied to the child, is narrowly tailored, and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.

The bill reserves all of the following rights to the parent of a child without interference from the state or other government entity:

  1. The right to determine the religion of the child.
  2. The right to determine the type of school or educational setting the child attends.
  3. The right to be notified of each health care service, including vaccinations or immunizations, offered at the child’s school and the right to withhold consent or decline any specific service, unless otherwise specified by law or court order.
  4. The right to review all medical records related to the child, unless otherwise specified by law or court order.
  5. The right to determine the names and pronouns used for the child while at school.
  6. The right to review instructional materials and outlines used by the child’s school, to the extent required by federal law.
  7. The right to access records regarding the education of the child that are generated, maintained, or used by the child’s school, to the extent required by federal law.
  8. The right to timely notice by the child’s school of any surveys or evaluations conducted in the child’s classroom that would reveal information concerning any of the following about the child or his or her parent or family members: political affiliations or beliefs; mental or psychological problems; sexual behavior or attitudes; illegal, antisocial, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior; critical appraisals of individuals with whom the child or parent has a close family relationship; relationships that are legally recognized as privileged, such as those with lawyers, physicians, and ministers; religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs; or income, unless otherwise specified by law.
  9. The right to timely notice by the child’s school, through a process consistent with school policy, of when a controversial subject will be taught or discussed in the child’s classroom. The bill defines “controversial subject” as a subject of substantial public debate, disagreement, or disapproval and specifies that the term includes instruction about gender identity, sexual orientation, racial identity, structural, systemic, or institutional racism, or content that is not age-appropriate.
  10. The right to opt out of a class or instructional materials at the child’s school for reasons based on either religion or personal conviction.
  11. The right to visit the child at school during school hours, consistent with school policy, unless otherwise specified by law or court order.
  12. The right to engage with locally elected school board members of the school district in which the child is a student in accordance with school district policy, including by participating at regularly scheduled school board meetings.
  13. The right to be notified of the creation of or updates to a security or surveillance system at the child’s school, not including routine maintenance.
  14. The right to be informed by the child’s school, in accordance with school policy, of any disciplinary action taken against the child. This includes suspension, expulsion, seclusion, physical restraint, or removal from class.
  15. The right to be timely informed of any acts of violence or crimes occurring on grounds of the child’s school.
  16. The right to receive accurate and individual information from the child’s school at least two times per year regarding the academic proficiency and classroom behavior of the child.
The bill also provides that a guardian has all of the rights listed in the bill, unless they are limited by law or court order.
The bill provides that this list does not comprehensively prescribe all inalienable parental rights, and that a child’s guardian may have rights that are more comprehensive than those listed.
The bill requires a school board to adopt a policy setting forth a process by which a parent or guardian of a pupil enrolled in the school district may file a written complaint alleging that a right identified in the bill was violated. Under the bill, this policy must require the school board to hold a public hearing to address any such written complaints at least once every three months. The bill also requires that the process be timely, that it grant the school board the final decision, and that it allow a clear process to appeal that decision.
The bill also allows a parent or guardian who is denied one of the rights identified in the bill to bring a civil action against a governmental body or official. The bill allows a parent or guardian to raise a violation of these rights in court or before an administrative tribunal of appropriate jurisdiction as a claim or defense. Under the bill, a parent or guardian that successfully asserts such a claim may recover declaratory relief, injunctive relief, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and up to $10,000 for any other appropriate relief. The bill provides that nothing in the bill authorizes a parent or guardian to abuse or neglect a child in violation of state law and that it may not be construed to apply to a parent’s or guardian’s action or decision that would end life. The bill also provides that nothing in the bill prohibits a court from issuing an order that is otherwise permitted by law and that it may not be construed to supersede a court order.”
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