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Whatever Schools Teach, Parents Have No Rights

Since California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 48 into law on July 14, the curriculum for California public schools must include “the role and contributions of…lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” in California and American history. Already, those on the left are preparing to defend the law in courts, while those on the right are driving petitions to overturn the law by a ballot initiative.

Why go to all that trouble?

Because the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over California and a handful of other states, has already made clear that there can be no opt-outs of anything in the curriculum, even if parents might find it offensive or contrary to their own educational ideals for their children.

Some parents will like this form of education. Other parents will object to it. At ParentalRights.Org our view is simply this: Parents, not government, should be able to make these decisions.

As it is, whatever curriculum California ultimately decides to keep, there will be public school parents who dislike it and who still have no rights under the Ninth Circuit to even opt their children out.

In 2005, the Ninth Circuit declared in Fields v. Palmdale that “[p]arents…have no constitutional right…to prevent public schools from providing its students with whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise, when and as the school determines that it is appropriate to do so.”

“In sum,” they wrote, “we affirm that the Meyer-Pierce [fundamental parental] right does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door.”

And it’s not just California and neighboring states, either. In 2007, the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts decided the same thing in Parker v. Hurley: parents have no right to opt their children out of a public school course. Nor are we aware of any decision to the contrary in any Circuit or District in the country since 2000.

So get ready for more legislation and more petitions as parents go back and forth over what all public school children must learn. When parents lack the basic right to simply pull their child out of a single class they dislike, there is no lesser recourse available than to change the entire curriculum for all.

The proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the Constitution can correct this by reversing Palmdale and Parker and re-establishing parental rights for fit parents regardless of their child’s location. Until then, parents will just have to duke it out in the legislature – because what their children learn in public school is entirely a matter of state law, and not of parental discretion.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

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