July 20, 2024

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Lansing school board implements a Parents Bill of Rights

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On June 13, 2022, the Lansing, Kansas, Board of Education did what the Kansas Legislature was unable to do, passing a Parents Bill of Rights.

The small community, just north of Kansas City, Kansas, is part of the KC Metro area and the seven-member board passed their Parents Bill of Rights 4-3.

The district’s new regulation is substantially similar to the bill passed by both houses of the state Legislature but vetoed by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat.

Lansing BOE member Amy Cawvey — one of three conservatives elected to the board last year — said she followed Senate Bill 58 as it passed through the legislature this year and was disappointed by the veto and failure to override.

“I had heard different takes on it,” she said, noting that one of the opposing arguments inspired her. “One of the reasons was that they thought it should be handled at a local school board level. 

“And that kind of got me thinking, ‘well, there’s no reason why we can’t do this anyway, you know, despite the governor veto at our own level,’ so I looked at the bill, and I took some of the language from that and then some of that is changed just a little.”

There were, she said, a couple of changes from what was passed by the Legislature.

The Legislature’s version stated that parents shall have “the right to make healthcare and medical decisions for such child, including the right to make decisions regarding vaccinations and immunizations.”

But because a school board policy cannot supersede state law, Lansing’s version adds a reference to state statute and a requirement to present an annual physician’s letter for medical exemptions or “a written statement signed by one parent or guardian that the child is an adherent of a religious denomination whose religious teachings are opposed to such tests or inoculations.”

The Lansing version also added a paragraph stating parents shall have “the right to expect teachers and administrators will not withhold, either inadvertently or purposely, important information related to a child, including, but not limited to, information relating to health, well-being, and education.”

“We have had issues locally and statewide, as you know, with gender issues with teachers and staff potentially, either willingly or inadvertently keeping things like a preferred pronoun or a student change in their name from parents,” Cawvey said. “When it came to our attention that was being kept from parents when they have the right … to have that (information).”

Dave Trabert, CEO of Kansas Policy Institute, which owns The Sentinel, says every local school district should follow Lansing’s lead.

“School board members are elected to serve parents and students, not district administration and unions.  The Lansing board’s action is a model that all districts should follow.”

Education organizations opposed PBR, Kelly granted their wish

Senate Bill 58 passed both chambers of the Kansas Legislature, despite stiff opposition from school districts, teacher unions, and the media — only to be vetoed by Kelly.

The House voted 72-50 to override Kelly’s veto, falling 12 votes short of the total needed to override Senate Bill 58.  The Parents Bill of Rights states that all parents have a right to direct their child’s upbringing, education, care, and mental health. Twelve Republicans joined 38 Democrats in voting to sustain Kelly’s veto.  The bill enumerated 12 rights reserved by the state for parents regarding their children. Such enumerated rights would have included, but would not have been limited to, the right to direct the education and care of the parent’s child and the right to direct the upbringing and moral or religious training of the parents’ child. 

The Senate had already voted to override 27-12, with one Republican joining 11 Democrats voting against parents’ basic civil rights to protect their child.

A statewide survey shows that 57% of parents are concerned about what their children are being taught, and a whopping 88% agreed that parents should have the primary say in their child’s education.

Cawvey said she hopes to see more school boards pass similar policies.

“I think basically, it just shows that as a parent, you can make a difference,” she said. “I hope other people will decide to run for school board and, you know, organize, and they can make changes so we couldn’t try to get things turned around in the public schools.”

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