Georgia GOP advances parent rights measure for public schools

Georgia State Capitol
The Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia. (Wikimedia Commons)

Georgia state senators on Tuesday passed a bill to codify parental rights in K-12 schools, part of a larger push on educational issues by Republicans nationwide, despite warnings from Democrats that the law will allow a few disgruntled parents to paralyze schools with burdensome demands.

The Senate voted 33-21 along party lines for Senate Bill 449, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is backing. The measure next moves to the House for more debate.

Conservative ferment over how schools teach about race, sexual orientation and other subjects is increasingly leading to calls for transparency mandates, like the one envisioned in the measure. Other bills pending in Georgia would allow parents to ask for “inappropriate” materials to be removed, ban the teaching of “divisive concepts” on race and prohibit transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.

“I believe that parents have a fundamental right in deciding what your children are taught in the classroom,” said Sen. Clint Dixon, a Buford Republican and Kemp floor leader.

The measure says parents have the right to review all classroom materials, the right to access all records relating to their child, the right to opt their child out of all sex education, and the right to prevent the creation of photos, videos and voice recordings of their children except for security purposes. Many of the rights already exist.

The law would require local school boards to develop procedures for parents to object to material used in the classroom.

Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat, said that the ability for parents to demand to review all instructional material during the first two weeks of each nine-week grading period could cause trouble. Existing rules already require every school district to publish a list of the primary materials used in each class.

But Parent warned that requiring schools to share copies of every bit of supplemental information used in class could create “a massive surveillance and document production effort,” contributing to “an atmosphere of classroom censorship on our already overburdened teachers.”

Principals would have three days to respond to requests, although schools could extend that period by up to 30 days. Parents would be guaranteed a speaking slot before their local school board to appeal any denial, and could further appeal to the state Board of Education.

Sen. Harold Jones II, an Augusta Democrat, said the law was so murkily drafted that it could allow parents to prevent their student from being recorded while playing football, meaning games couldn’t be broadcast.

Republicans, though, said opponents are disrespecting their constituents.

“I don’t know how you can go back to your districts and tell parents ‘I’m against you,'” said Sen. Matt Brass, a Newnan Republican. “Shame on you.”

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