New year, new parental rights bill

New year, new parental rights bill
Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 19:58:58-05

A Senate panel has introduced the latest draft of a parental rights bill aimed to define the involvement of parents and schools in the education of children.

The legislation is sponsored by Sens. Mary Souza, R-Coeur D'Alene, and Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian. It's similar to the bill they introduced last year, but adds considerable amount of language to better define the roles of teachers, administrators, and parents.

The bill reads "A student's parent or guardian is the primary person responsible for the education of the student, and the state is in a secondary and supportive role to the parent or guardian." This is the main thrust of the legislation. However, there are qualifications and sideboards to the extent parents are on top.

The bill concedes schools need only make reasonable accommodation for students. It specifically protects schools from taking steps that impact staff, school resources, or the education of other children.

"This language is soft and invitational on purpose," said Souza. "We want to foster a positive, nurturing relationship for the student to have the best learning situation they can and to bridge the gap between the needs of the parent and the concerns of the parent, and how the school operates. We all know the best situation for learning is when schools and parents work together for that child's education."

The bill would require school districts to annually inform parents of their primary rights, and the responsibilities that come with it. That includes creating a process by which a parent can pull their child from a class where there is disagreement.

Souza said this happened to a parent she knows. Her son had a hard time in a math class, he was pulled and found support elsewhere. He was not pulled from the school entirely.

Souza added this is not an excuse for truancy. If a parent decides to pull their child from a classroom, they would still be required to find suitable education accommodation that conforms to the standards of the Idaho Constitution. Souza says the bill is not intended to allow students or their parents to shirk the education system.

"Having a right means you have a responsibility," she said.