The House of Representatives on Friday voted to pass the Parents Bill of Rights Act over objections from Democrats who argued the bill aims to promote “fascism” and “extreme” views held by Republicans by making it easier for parents to ban books and to exclude LBGTQ+ students.
The GOP law comes in response to growing anger across the country over access to information on everything from school curriculum to safety and mask policies to the proliferation of gender ideology and critical race theory in the classroom. Parents’ anger over these issues at school board meetings led to efforts by the Biden administration’s Justice Department to investigate the “disturbing trend” of violent threats against school officials.
House Republicans responded by passing the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which would require school districts to give parents access to curriculum and reading lists, and require schools to notify parents when school staff begin gender switching to encourage or encourage their child.
The law narrowly passed by a vote of 213 to 208, with just a handful of Republicans voting against and all Democrats voting against.
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Democrats blasted the law during this week’s debate by accusing Republicans of targeting LGBTQ+ students.
“This Republican bill requires the government to force the coming out of LGBT people before they are ready,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., argued on the House floor. “If we talk about progressive values, I can say what my progressive value is, and that is freedom, not fascism.”
Republicans dismissed this argument, saying parents have a right to know what is happening to their children at school, especially when schools encourage gender reassignment without their knowledge.
“The bill does not address a student’s identity or testimonies, but focuses solely on informing parents of actions taken by school staff to respond to a gender change, such as: Like changing pronouns or switching locker rooms,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, RN. C., Chair of the House Education & Commerce Committee.
The bill states that parents “have the right to know whether a school employee or contractor is acting to … change a minor child’s gender characteristics, pronouns, or preferred name; or … allow a child to change the child’s gender-specific accommodations, including changing rooms or bathrooms.”
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Democrats also accused Republicans of trying to ease the ban on books in schools, and several Democrats said Republicans are seeking a statewide ban on books on a range of subjects.
“Extreme MAGA Republicans don’t want America’s children to know about the Holocaust,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries accused DN.Y. “They want to ban a book called ‘Melissa,’ a book that describes, in very personal terms, the experience of a trans girl beginning to understand her identity.”
“They want to ban books, they want to bully the LGBTQ+ community, they want to bring guns into classrooms, kindergartens and beyond. That’s their education agenda,” he added.
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Republicans dismissed those arguments, saying the bill does nothing to ban books and gives parents the right to see a list of books in school libraries and have access to those books.
“Nowhere in this bill will books be banned,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., who said the goal of the language is to ensure parents are made aware of sexually explicit books in school libraries.
Norman and others also argued that the books under attack in some states and localities are those that contain explicit sexual content, which they say is not appropriate for certain ages and is not a core education requirement. Norman cited books about children who “have been sexually active since I was six” or that contain “explicit imagery of oral sex.”
“Parents, would you like your children to read this?” Norman asked. “Parents, is this something that encourages academics and allows this kid to compete in the 21st century?”
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The bill passed by the House of Representatives today would also notify parents if there are plans to eliminate gifted and talented programs for children, alert them to violent activity at school and give parents the right to speak at school board meetings.
It includes a sentiment from Congress that says school districts “should welcome and encourage that engagement and consider that feedback when making decisions.”
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