Rokita revises ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ to cover curriculum, medical issues

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has released a revised version of his controversial “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” offering additional guidance to Hoosier parents on educational issues such as filing civil rights claims, opting out of curriculum and the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as reminding parents of their right to petition lawmakers regarding their child’s education.

The Republican attorney general released his “Parents’ Bill of Rights 2.0” on Monday. Described as a “roadmap for parental engagement” in a child’s education, the first version of the document was released in June and initially addressed issues including critical race theory and social-emotional learning in Hoosier schools.

The amended document now provides guidance to parents on five additional educational issues:

  • How to file a civil rights claim if a student is allegedly discriminated against.
  • How to engage school boards and get access to documents.
  • How to become aware of a students’ medical rights.
  • How to run for school boards.
  • How to opt out of curriculum.

“Many Indiana teachers are committed, passionate educators who would never contemplate using classroom time to indoctrinate students into specific political ideologies,” Rokita said in a news release. “But parents have learned they must stay watchful, and they need to understand their legal rights to participate in the part of their children’s education that occurs outside the home, including in government schools.”

The new guidance in the 53-page  Parent’s Bill of Rights 2.0 advises parents on how to file a civil rights complaint on behalf of a child with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights or the Indiana Civil Rights Commission.

Additionally, the guidance advises parents that they can opt their children out of certain curriculum including “evaluations or surveys on political affiliations, religious beliefs or practices, mental or psychological conditions, sexual behaviors, illegal behaviors, privileged or confidential relationships, and income if these evaluations and surveys are not related to academic instruction.”

“Moreover, the (Indiana General Assembly) could expand current law and allow parents to opt-out of more types of surveys and evaluations or types of instruction,” the guidance adds in a section of text that is bolded and underlined. “Parents also have the right to petition the IGA to allow for opting-out of surveys even if the topic, such as political affiliations and religious practices, is related to academic instruction. These requirements could also be changed to require parents to opt-in instead of putting the onus on parents to opt-out.”

Next, the new guidance includes a section on parents’ rights as it pertains to medical decisions for their children, including issues related to COVID-19. In a list of 10 specific rights included in the guidance, the seventh says, “You have the right to make decisions regarding vaccinations and immunizations for your child.”

Addressing the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine, the document notes that Indiana does not currently require K-12 students to get a COVID vaccines. According to the guidance, “additional vaccine requirements for Indiana school-aged children would require legislative approval and a determination by the Indiana State Department of Health that additional vaccine requirements are in the interest of public health.”

As with curriculum issues, the guidance advises parents that they have the right “to petition legislators to create legislation to prohibit” a school vaccine mandate if they “believe a vaccine, such as the COVID-19 vaccine, should not be required for school-aged children … .”

Additional versions of the Parents’ Bill of Rights addressing more educational issues are planned, according to Rokita. The document’s preamble notes, “Future editions are scheduled to cover religious liberty issues in schools and options for education freedom in Indiana.”

“Hoosier parents statewide are embracing their God-given roles as primary providers of their children’s education and upbringing,” the AG said in a news release. “So many dedicated moms and dads responded with such appreciation to our Parents’ Bill of Rights when we first released it in June, and they raised many new questions and concerns that we are honored to help address in this Parents’ Bill of Rights 2.0.”

But the initial version of the guidance released in the summer also sparked criticism for its commentary on critical race theory and social-emotional learning. The guidance described the two concepts as being “utilized as a means of introducing distorted theories and activities aimed at making students feel bad about themselves.”

Several Hoosier Democrats spoke out about the document, with the Indiana Democratic Party calling it “an attempt to garner attention” that “fails to deliver any tangible results for today’s most-pressing issues, and holds Indiana and its families back from future success.”

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