Friday, March 31, 2023

Appeal to Parental Control

From Mary Ziegler (UC Davis) & Naomi Cahn (UVA), writing for CNN:

“Parents decide what their children get to learn.” So said a school board chair at a charter school in Florida after its principal was forced to resign following complaints that sixth-grade students were shown pictures of Michelangelo’s classic statue of “David” without parents being given advance warning. Barney Bishop III told CNN that “we are going to make sure the concept of parental rights is supreme in Florida and at our charter school.”

It’s no coincidence that in his comments, Bishop also voiced support for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, a bill that restricts classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, into law last year. DeSantis is among several of the big names in the shadow Republican primary unfolding in public life who have shot to the top of American politics by claiming to defend the rights of parents.

Glenn Youngkin, the Virginia governor, won a swing state with views that included “parents matter.” In his first campaign visit to Iowa, Donald Trump similarly promised to “bring parental rights back into our school system.” Early in her campaign for president, Nikki Haley claimed that the Florida bill didn’t go “far enough,” and she has condemned critical race theory.


What’s behind the appeal to parental control? It may come down to the Constitution: the courts have recognized a constitutional right for parents to steer the upbringing of children. That’s certainly a legitimate concern. The Supreme Court has confirmed that parental decision making is entitled to “special weight,” and states defer to parental choices in most contexts, short of abuse and neglect.

But the GOP’s new parental rights strategy must be understood in historical context: in the past, similar tactics were used to delegitimize the choices minors were making and create an opening wedge to attack the rights of adults who make those same choices.

Read more here.

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