Arizona bill would allow families to sue teachers over parental rights violations

(The Center Square) – A bill in the Arizona legislature would create a sharper enforcement mechanism for the state’s parental bill of rights. 

While Arizona has a parents bill of rights, it doesn’t have any recourse for parents who think their rights have been violated. Senate Bill 1049, filed by Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, would change that.

The bill would allow parents to sue teachers and school districts who violate their rights as parents. Those found guilty under the law would face a class 2 misdemeanor charge. The law also would allow the state’s attorney general to take schools to court; penalties against schools could reach $5,000 under the proposal.

Townsend spoke in favor of the proposal at a February 10 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

“So this bill basically brings in the teeth, so it’s no longer a ‘so what’ statute, but is actually abided by,” she said. “The erosion of parental rights is clear and obvious, and we’re just trying to restore that.”

Dana Almond, a mother of four, testified against the bill.

She said that teachers have been working hard during the pandemic and that she thinks the bill would add stress to their lives.

“When I’m looking at this bill and I see legal jeopardy,” she said. “I’m worried about the health and welfare of my kids, which is going to take away from my kids’ education and focus on that. If they’ve got something over their head, I don’t understand what the motivation is, because I know we’re collaborative, parents and teachers. I’m just worried about the health of the teachers and how it will affect my children.”

The state’s parental bill of rights has many implications in public schools. Among other things, it requires parents to permit their children to take sex-ed classes, allows parents to opt their children out of learning material they find harmful to their student, lets parents see instructional materials, gives parents a chance to opt their children out of learning about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and prevents schools from showing R-rated movies without parental consent to students under 18 years old.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended 5-3 that the bill move forward. It has not yet come up for a formal vote.