Parental rights bill panned by educators gains traction in Kansas House

Legislation would allow parents to prevent their children from learning material they disapprove of

By: - February 23, 2023 10:27 am
A view of the Statehouse inner dome on Feb. 20, 2023

A new form of parental rights legislation is expected to pass out of the Kansas House, following months of debate on public education statewide. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas House lawmakers moved forward on a form of parent’s rights legislation, one that would allow parents to pull their children out of any classes they found offensive without repercussions to the child’s grades. 

Rep. Rebecca Schmoe, an Ottawa Republican, introduced an amended form of the bill on the House floor Wednesday. Schmoe said she felt the legislation would benefit both teachers and parents, though education officials have said the legislation would hinder teachers in classrooms. 

“There’s actually zero language in this bill that addresses what a teacher teaches,” Schmoe said. “This bill is entirely about letting a parent decide what they are comfortable with their student hearing about in school from trusted adults. That’s all it is.”

The bill, House Bill 2236, stipulates that parents have the right to direct the education, upbringing and moral or religious training of their children. Under the bill, parents could remove their child from any lesson or class without harm to the student’s academic records if they objected to the material being taught.  

Educational materials specified under the bill would include reading material, websites, videos and textbooks. If the material wasn’t included in the approved district curriculum or state educational standards, or if the material contradicted a parent’s beliefs or values, parents would have grounds to withdraw their children. Local school boards would be required to adopt policies and procedures for the bill, if passed. 

Critics of the legislation, including the Kansas State Parent Teacher Association, State Board of Education, Kansas Association of School Boards and Kansas National Education Association have said the legislation is overbroad

Rep. Linda Featherston, an Overland Park Democrat, questioned the need for the bill, saying schools already communicated well with parents, and that the issue should be left with local school boards and education officials. 

“We’re addressing problems that do not exist,” Featherston said. “And we need to focus on things that make our state better, not that tear us apart.” 

The legislation is similar to a parental bill of rights for K-12 public education passed in the Legislature during the last session. That bill encouraged skepticism of classroom instructional materials and challenges to books on the shelves of school libraries and was vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.