Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Assembly Education Committee held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 963, known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
This bill deserves some historical context because the idea of a bill deemed a parents’ bill of rights should give most citizens pause. We should all be asking, “Why is this bill necessary?”
To be blunt, a bill of this nature should not be necessary in Wisconsin or anywhere else in this country. And yet, in recent years a number of states have enacted laws similar to the provisions in AB 963. Talk of a federal parents’ bill of rights is ramping up.
We assert that parents absolutely have every right enumerated in this bill—and even more importantly, as this bill states: “A parent of a child in this state has inalienable rights that are more comprehensive than those listed in this section.”
“Inalienable rights” – defined legally as rights that “are not transferable or capable of being taken away or nullified.” Our Declaration of Independence speaks of “inalienable rights”: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights….” This founding document actually acknowledges the source for “inalienable rights”: our Creator, who is, as the founders would acknowledge, God. Frankly, their source is what makes “inalienable rights” inalienable. Because government doesn’t create or bestow these rights, government cannot revoke or transfer them.
When the Declaration was written and 100 years later when the US Constitution was drafted, parents having rights—inalienable rights—when it came to their children was considered to be “self-evident.” That’s why the Constitution doesn’t spell out any parents’ rights. Our founders couldn’t imagine that a bill of this nature would ever be necessary.
But the times, they have definitely changed—and today, tragically, we need to specifically codify certain rights parents have. Assembly Bill 963 does that with the 15 delineations it contains.
Those rights are the right to determine the religion of the child. The right to determine the type of school or educational setting the child attends. The right to determine medical care for the child. The right to review all medical records related to the child. The right to determine the names and pronouns used for the child while at school. The right to review instructional materials and outlines used by the child's school. The right to access any education-related information regarding the child. The right to advance notice of any polls or surveys instituted by the child's classroom. The right to request notice of when certain subjects will be taught or discussed in the child's classroom. The right to opt out of a class or instructional materials for reasons based on either religion or personal conviction. The right to visit the child at school during school hours, consistent with school policy, unless otherwise specified in law or court order. The right to engage with locally elected school board members of the school district in which the child is a student, including participating at regularly scheduled school board meetings. The right to be notified of the creation of or updates to a security or surveillance system at the child's school. The right to be informed of any disciplinary action taken against or threatened against the child. And, finally, the right to be timely informed of any acts of violence or crimes occurring on the grounds of the child's school.
Why these 15? Because we have seen multiple times and places where the state and/or its agents, especially in government schools, have abused their power and encroached on these rights of parents when it comes to their children.
This bill also clarifies the legal standard by which to assess whether parents’ rights have been infringed and creates a cause of action for parents to sue. No parent should be left defenseless when government tries to strip them of their right to decide what is best for their child.
Circling back to the statement about other inalienable rights of parents, we reference the little-understood and little-invoked Ninth Amendment of our US Constitution, which says, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” This amendment should be invoked and language such as is included in AB 963 should be included more and more as we see our self-evident, Creator-endowed, inalienable rights stripped away by every level of government—including the rights of parents to bring up their children.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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