The House Education Committee by voice vote passed a measure codifying parental rights in the state. House Bill 567 now goes the House floor. But its passage became mired in a lengthy and at times contentious debate with several of those testifying making reference to House Bill 499, another, more lengthy parental rights bill that was resoundingly criticized by the Idaho attorney general’s office.
“This parental rights bill is not an adversarial bill,” noted Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, as she presented House Bill 567 to the committee on Tuesday. “This is a bill to promote parents’ involvement in their child’s education.”
Trujillo crafted House Bill 567 after Brian Kane, a deputy attorney general, reviewed her House Bill 499, and noted what he believed were several flaws.
Kane said the bill states that “under the Constitution and as recognized by Idaho courts, parents have a right to participate in the supervision and control of the education of their children.” Kane wrote, however, “The text of the Idaho Constitution does not contain any explicit statement to that effect.”
He did, however, state that “the Idaho Supreme Court has recognized that the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution has been construed to include a liberty interest in a parent’s right to direct a child’s education.”
Kane also said that while Idaho case law acknowledges that parents have the right to send their children to private schools, “there is no case law giving parents a right to direct the education of their children in public schools because individual parents could give conflicting direction to the public school.”
Kane added that “it cannot fairly be said that parents have a fundamental right to exercise primary control over the education of their children.”
Regarding a portion of House Bill 499 concerning the right of parents to “obtain information” about their student from the child’s school, Kane stated that “child protection records are exempt from disclosure unless the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the custodian of such records, determines that the release would be in the best interest of public safety or in the best interest of the children.”
House Bill 567, while much more brief than the original bill, cites language in the U.S. Constitution and notes that “parents and legal guardians” have “a right, responsibility, and obligation to participate in the education” of their children.
“Clearly the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the rights of parents,” Trujillo told IdahoReporter.com. “But now we need this recognized in state statute because our state constitution does not.”
Despite the more limited scope of House Bill 567, several testifying about the bill found it to be either unnecessary or problematic.
“It is amazing to me that a parent needs to have it in law something that they have an inherent right to do,” Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, commented to Trujillo. ”I can’t get my mind wrapped around what this parental rights law actually does.”
“It may be a firm belief, but it is not the case in law that parents have rights with their children,” Trujillo responded.
“The Idaho School Boards Association does not understand the need for this,” testified Karen Echeverria, president of the organization. “… we don’t see that the U.S. Constitution addresses education, so we don’t think that it makes sense to reference it. We frankly don’t understand why this bill is even necessary at all.”
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, asked Trujillo if the bill would interfere with the implementation of the Common Core agenda, to which Trujillo answered “no.”
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, motioned that the bill be amended to eliminate the word “obligation” as it applies to parents. “I support the intent of this bill, but I’m concerned this could be used against a parent in a custody case, where a judge could determine that a parent has not adequately met an educational obligation.”
The committee rejected the motion to amend the bill.