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Bills would codify parental rights

Measures introduced in House, Senate

OLYMPIA — Two lawmakers have introduced bills to guarantee parental rights in the education, health and upbringing of their children.

On Thursday, Jan. 26, Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, introduced House Bill 1601 to establish a specific set of rights parents should have relating to the care, well-being, education and upbringing of their children.

Calling it the “Parental Bill of Rights,” Graham says House Bill 1601 is needed to help parents take back their intended role as guardians, protectors and raisers of children.

Her bill was filed a day after Sen. Jim McCune, R-Graham, introduced Senate Bill 5558 in the Senate.

“Parents know what is best for their children, and the state needs to recognize the parent’s right to play the primary role in determining education policy, school curricula and other fundamental decisions about the care and development of their children,” McCune said.

“A parent’s role since the beginning of time has been to rear their children based on their cultural beliefs and values. They are the paramount role model within a child’s life,” Graham said. “However, the Legislature has continued to encroach upon ground that has traditionally belonged to parents when it comes to a child’s security, health, mental stability, upbringing, and beliefs.

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘No more!’ It’s time for the state to officially recognize the rights of parents.”

Graham’s bill “recognizes the crucial role parents play in Washington state and in society as a whole. The legislature finds that parents are the primary stakeholders in their child’s upbringing. As such, the legislature intends to make clear the rights parents have in this state to raise and educate their children in accordance with their own values and beliefs.”

Some of the rights listed in her bill include the right to::

• Direct education and care.

• Direct upbringing and the moral or religious training.

• Access and review all education records.

• Make health care decisions, unless otherwise prohibited by law.

House Bill 1601 was referred to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee; Graham serves as the assistant ranking member.

McCune’s measure recognizes that “parents are the best protectors of their children and have the natural right and

duty to care for them.

“The Legislature intends to codify parents and guardians’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children to help protect this right from governmental encroachment on parental authority in public schools,” the bill said.

Under the bill, parents would be guaranteed choice regarding the type of education their child will receive, and prevent government overreach unless it can show a narrowly tailored “compelling governmental interest.”

The bill specifically says it should not be construed to extend to decisions that would result in an end-of-life decision.

McCune introduced two additional bills regarding the education of children and parental authority.

Senate Bill 5008, the Education Transparency Act, would require school districts to post on its website all core instructional materials used within its curricula within 14 days of adoption by school boards.

McCune noted most schools use an online portal to access grades, and says this bill would make a similar system available to parents.If approved, the bill would also allow a superior court judge to level a civil penalty of $500 for each violation by a school district or a school building.

Senate Bill 5009 is a response to the voter-approved, controversial sex-education program that allows sexual-based curriculum as young as kindergarten.

McCune’s bill would require parents to affirmatively “opt in” before a child participates in comprehensive sexual health education. The current system requires parents to opt out.

McCune said this legislation, if approved, will respect the substantial number of parents genuinely concerned about controversial sexual materials being forced on their young children.

“The best way to address division and controversy and reduce the level of tension and animosity is to avoid forcing a one-size-fit-all solution on every student and parent,” McCune said. “The best solution is to have parents make informed decisions about what is best for their children, and then respect their decisions.”

The three McCune bills are before the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, which must advance the measures by Feb. 17 for them to be considered during the 2023 legislative session.

McCune is also a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 5024, which would require more opportunity for parental and public observation and participation in School Board meetings.

That bill is scheduled for a Feb. 1 hearing in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.


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