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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) holds the gavel after he was elected on the 15th ballot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 7, 2023. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)
The U.S. House of Representatives on March 24 passed H.R. 5, the Parents Bill of Rights Act.
The bill passed the lower chamber in a 213–208 party-line vote.
Republicans easily defeated a Democrat measure to recommit the legislation to committee.
H.R. 5, the fulfillment of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) long-promised “parental bill of rights,” would do several things, each with the overarching goal of ensuring that parents know what’s going on in their children’s classrooms.
The bill comes after COVID-19 restrictions led many parents to receive a better glimpse into their children’s education, as they were learning at home via their computers. Many parents learned in this setting about the far-left ideology being pushed in the classroom.
In turn, parents across the nation began showing up to school board meetings to protest the curriculum.
Later, Attorney General Merrick Garland was caught in an Oct. 4, 2021, memo offering federal resources and legal aid to states days after the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to President Joe Biden saying the country’s “public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat” from these parents and called verbal confrontations and other incidents at local school board meetings across the country “domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
Since that memo came to light, McCarthy has vowed to deliver legislation to ensure that parents’ control over their children’s education is legally protected.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, made the issue his campaign’s primary concern. Voters rewarded Youngkin by giving him a wide-margin victory over his Democrat rival in the blue-leaning Dominion State.
The main component of the bill would require schools to publicly disclose the contents of their curriculum and library materials to parents. Currently, many schools teaching radical ideology do so without the parents’ knowledge.
Additionally, the bill would establish the right of parents to see their kids’ schools’ expenditures.
“Public schools are paid for by taxpayer dollars,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said of the measure during a House Rules Committee hearing on the bill. “Mothers and fathers deserve financial transparency and to see how their money is being used.”
The bill would also ensure that parents are notified of, and give consent to, any medical procedure performed on their child on school grounds.
A similar provision would require that parents be notified of any violent activity on school grounds.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said that the bill would establish new “checks and balances” for parents over their children’s education.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the bill “a basic concept but a powerful statement.”
During floor debate on the bill, Foxx accused education bureaucrats and school district employees of “pushing progressive politics in the classroom while keeping parents in the dark.”
“Parents will finally be empowered to examine classroom curricula and protect the safety and privacy of their children without fear of being targeted by the federal government.
Democrats spoke against the bill.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who led Democrat opposition to the bill, dismissed the legislation as the “Politics Over Parents Act.”
Scott said the bill was part of a GOP plot “to allow a vocal minority to impose their beliefs on all parents.”
Protecting Parents Who Speak Out
One of the Republicans’ key goals in crafting the bill was to ensure that parents who speak out against what is being taught to their children do not face retribution from local, state, or federal authorities.
“No longer will [parents] have their speech denied, or feel threatened for expressing their concerns at school board meetings,” Foxx said.
The comment was in reference to a late-2021 controversy in which Attorney General Merrick Garland offered federal resources and guidance to local law enforcement to target parents who attended school board meetings.
In 2021, the United States saw a deluge of concerned parents coming to school board meetings to speak out against left-wing ideology in the classroom.
Many parents came to their school board to speak out against critical race theory (CRT), a highly contentious left-wing theory that holds that white people are inherently “privileged” and that non-white people are inherently oppressed. Critics of CRT note that it has its origins in the political thought of Karl Marx, the ideological founder of communism; the theory has also been criticized as racist for its efforts to reduce the individual to a member of a group on the basis of their skin color.
In his remarks against the bill, Scott suggested that CRT was “an accurate recounting of our nation’s history,” and that the legislation would “punish librarians” who pushed CRT.
Other parents came to school board meetings to speak out against fringe left-wing notions of sex and gender. Many left-wing activists claim that gender is a social construct and that a person can change their gender based on their feelings.
One parent, Terry Newsome of Chicago, who spoke out against allowing “Gender Queer” in his kids’ school library in 2021, was later placed on a terror watch-list with no warning or further explanation.
In an Oct. 4, 2021, memo Garland sent to U.S. attorneys across the nation, the attorney general offered to help local law enforcers to round up and file charges against parents who spoke out.
Republicans took the memo as a sign that the administration was prepared to target parents for protected First Amendment activity. Since then, they have vowed to deliver a “parents’ bill of rights” to protect against such abuses if they took back the House.
During his questioning, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) explicitly referenced the Oct. 4 memo as part of the reason for the bill’s existence.
Allegations of “book banning” took up a large portion of the debates over the legislation.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of state legislatures and school districts have prohibited certain books with overtly sexual or racial themes from certain schools or age levels.
For instance, many school districts and states have barred the book “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe from school libraries. The book, delivered in the form of a graphic novel, recounts the experience of a minor female who believes she is male; during an especially graphic part of the story, the main character is depicted engaging in oral sex with another biological female who identifies as male.
Another such book, “Flamer” by Mike Curato, traces the homosexual experiences of a minor boy at summer camp with another minor boy.
Though these and other controversial works remain protected by the First Amendment and can be purchased in stores or online, they are inaccessible from many school libraries due to their highly-sexual content.
Nevertheless, Democrats have insisted that restricting children’s access to these and other books is tantamount to censorship.
“State Republicans are going on a book banning spree that would make the Chinese Communist Party blush,” House Rules Committee Ranking Member Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said later.
Twenty-five states have passed such laws.
McGovern depicted this as “Republican legislators telling students what they are, and are not, allowed to learn.”
“That allows one racist or homophobic person to tell an entire class, an entire school, what they can and can’t read,” he added.
During later questioning at the Rules Committee hearing, Scott admitted that nothing in the bill would ban books. But he suggested that if libraries were forced to disclose their inventory, more books would be banned.
As part of the bill, school libraries would be required to publish the full list of books in their library, and to update those lists in a timely fashion when they purchase new materials.
Scott painted a portrait of right-wing organizations mounting crusades to have certain books removed from school libraries: “This bill will make the logistics of that easy.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) responded to this argument later in the hearing, citing “Flamer.”
“If libraries have to publish their lists, yeah, some things might be removed,” Roy said. “[Flamer] should be removed. But it’ll be debated. It’ll be discussed.”
‘Parents Bill of Rights’ wins zero votes from Dems who attack it as ‘fascism,’ ‘extreme’ attack on schools
By Peter Kasperowicz | Fox News
The bill is the GOP’s response to growing anger about lack of access to school information across the nation
The House voted to pass the Parents Bill of Rights Act on Friday over objections from Democrats who argued the bill is aimed at promoting “fascism” and “extreme” views of Republicans by making it easier for parents to ban books and out LBGTQ+ students.
The GOP bill is a response to growing anger across the country about access to information on everything from school curricula to safety and mask policies to the prevalence of gender ideology and critical race theory in the classroom. Parents’ anger over these issues at school board meetings led to an effort by the Biden administration’s Justice Department to examine the “disturbing trend” of violent threats against school officials.
House Republicans reacted by approving the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which would require school districts to give parents access to curriculum and reading lists and would require schools to inform parents if school staff begin encouraging or promoting their child’s gender transition.
The bill passed narrowly in a 213-208 vote that saw just a handful of Republicans vote against it, along with every Democrat.
Democrats blasted the bill during debate this week by accusing Republicans of attacking LGBTQ+ students.
“This Republican bill is asking the government to force the outing of LGBT people before they are ready,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., argued on the House floor. “When we talk about progressive values, I can say what my progressive value is, and that is freedom over fascism.”
Republicans rejected this argument by saying parents have a right to know what is happening to their children in school, especially if schools are promoting gender transition without their knowledge.
“The bill does not address a student’s identity or statements, but is solely focused on notifying parents about actions taken by school personnel to act on a gender transition, such as changing pronouns or switching locker rooms,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the Committee on Education & the Workforce.
The bill says parents have “the right to know if a school employee or contractor acts to… change a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name; or… allow a child to change the child’s sex-based accommodations, including locker rooms or bathrooms.”
Democrats also accused Republicans of trying to make it easier to ban books at school, and several Democrats said Republicans are looking to ban books across the country on a range of topics.
“Extreme MAGA Republicans don’t want the children of America to learn about the Holocaust,” accused House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “They want to ban a book called ‘Melissa,’ a book describing, in very personal terms, the experience of a trans girl beginning to understand her identity.”
“They want to ban books, they want to bully the LGBTQ+ community, they want to bring guns into classrooms, kindergarten and above. That’s their educational agenda,” he added.
Republicans dismissed those arguments by saying the bill does nothing to ban books but does give parents the right to see a list of books in school libraries and access to those books.
“Nowhere in this bill is it banning any books,” asserted Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., who said the goal of the language is to make sure parents are aware of sexually explicit books in school libraries.
Norman and others also argued that the books under attack in some states and communities are those that include explicit sexual content that they say is not appropriate for certain ages and is not a core educational requirement. Norman cited books that talk about kids who are “sexually active from the time I was 6,” or that include “explicit images of oral sex.”
“Parents, is this something you want your children to read?” Norman asked. “Parents, is this something that encourages academics and allows that child to compete in the 21st century?”
The bill passed by the House on Friday would also give parents notice if there are plans to eliminate gifted-and-talented programs for kids, alert them to any violent activity taking place at school and give them the right to speak at school board meetings.
It also provides that school districts “should welcome and encourage that engagement and consider that feedback when making decisions.”