Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

May 25, 2010

Arizona’s Parent Rights Bill

In the waning days of the Arizona legislature this year, the lawmakers passed an extraordinary law—S.B. 1309.  Quietly, without fanfare or spotlight this new law slipped into place.  Parents now have a new chapter in the Arizona Codes, Chapter 6 of the Education Code.  The new insert falls right in between the chapter on School Employees and the chapter on Instruction… as it should.  The chapter is entitled “Parents’ Rights.”  This new code outlines remarkable things and fundamental relationships.

The authors indicate that what follows are a parent’s fundamental rights as a parent in this state.  They even go so far as to say that the contents of this new Chapter 6 are not exclusive, that is, they are only part of a parent’s inalienable rights.  Now those are heavy-weight words, constitutional-type words.  Inalienable means these rights cannot be transferred to another or surrendered except by the person possessing them.  The only person who has these rights is a parent.  No one else can presume to share in this authority unless a parent specifically transfers that right.  What are these rights?

Only parents may direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.  This means that only parents may direct their children’s education without obstruction or interference by any official of the state.  Parents have the right to access and review all records relating to the child… all records.  It means that only parents are responsible for the moral or religious training.  All health care decisions fall to the parent.  Government agencies must seek out a parent’s signed permission prior to exercising anything that would infringe on these rights.

Obviously, this does not allow a parent or guardian to engage in any behaviors that are unlawful or that abuse or neglect children in violation of the law. 

But Chapter 6 goes a bit further.  It specifies that any attempt to encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from his/her parent is grounds for the discipline of an employee of the state.  It seems that no one or nothing should stand between a child and her/his parents.  Wow!

There are restrictions on the procedures used to include materials and programs in a (government) school’s curriculum.  Parents have the right to opt in to specific sex education curriculum for their children; opting in means that the district cannot presume to include their children without prior written permission. Parents have a right to know of the competency requirements to promote a student from one grade to the next.  Parents have the right to review all courses of study and textbooks.   

The authors include a prohibition against what is called “mental health screening.”  Without a parent’s permission, this exercise could constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor; this is serious stuff.

Chapter 6 requires (government) school districts to establish procedures whereby parents may be apprised of their rights under this new code as well as all the laws of the state.  They are also directed to develop the process by which children may be withdrawn from any learning material or activity that is deemed harmful by the parent because it questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion. I only hope that whatever procedures are chosen are better than that two inch thick envelope given on the first day of school, a day fraught with confusion and chaos.  And I pray that permission slips are distributed and collected as needed throughout the year, not once-and-for-all up front in the beginning of the year.

Arizona’s new chapter could as easily be called “parenthood.”  This is a lot of the stuff of being a parent.  But the code is correct in this regard: it places this awesome responsibility clearly on the shoulders of the primary educator—the parent—and no one else.  I believe the Arizona Legislature got this one right. It seems rather obvious. I encourage you to read the entire section.

One has to wonder, though, why the voting record in both the House and Senate were split on this issue and the reasons why the lawmakers had to author this common sense language in the first place.

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2 Comments »

  1. How foresightful of the Arizona Leg–two home runs in one Session! Two Grand Slams, I should say. Could you put up a link to that Section 6? A law like this educates and serves as a corrective to the trend for government take-over of parental responsibilities. Who were the major sponsors and their philosophies? They deserve full credit. Thanks so much for sharing this development, Robert. We here in benighted NY/NJ could stand a good bit of this kind of enlightenment!!!

    Comment by Jim Mahoney — June 4, 2010 @ 3:32 am |Reply

  2. California needs this type of legislation, if only the California legislature was enlightened as Arizona’s.

    Comment by Teresa Pampu — June 4, 2010 @ 3:56 pm |Reply


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