Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita released a Parents’ Bill of Rights, which has provided guidelines on how parents across the state can make decisions regarding their child’s education.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights is a set of rights that parents and caregivers in the state of Indiana have in terms of decisions regarding their children.
As of November, a section on parent involvement in a child’s medical decisions has been added, such as ways parents can opt their students out of school curriculum and file civil rights complaints.
The new section on medical decisions includes access to student health records, vaccination requirements and educational accommodations, according to a press release from Rokita.
“With the opportunity to add a medical decision, and with some of the other pieces that have come up as a new way of highlighting students’ success, I think it hopefully helps parents understand number one what they can do, but even more importantly how to support their children,” Deb Getz, associate clinical professor in the School of Public Health, said.
Getz said the concept of the Parents’ Bill of Rights is not a new one, and components of it have been supported by schools for a long time. She said the relationship between not only a parent and a child, but between a parent and people engaging with their child, is extremely important.
“One of the most important pieces that parents need to understand is that one of the biggest ways they can support the success of their children is by engaging in a developmentally appropriate way with anyone who is engaging with their children,” Getz said.
Keith Barton, professor in the IU School of Education, said the new section on medical decisions gives parents the right to not vaccinate their children against COVID-19, even if schools start mandating it.
“He’s encouraging individual parents to stop their children from either learning certain things at school or following rules about vaccinations,” Barton said.
Regarding the section on parents’ involvement in education, Barton said he views this bill’s mission as not increasing parent involvement, but rather decreasing the teaching of topics such as race in schools. Parents who are uncomfortable with curriculum on tough topics can criticize the schools and opt out of the curriculum, he said.
Topics such as race and racism are integral in a child’s education, and parents should not opt out of curriculum like that, Barton said. He said he thinks this bill gives parents the right to stop the teaching of topics like racism in school.
“With a topic like race and racism, everybody needs to understand that because we’re a deeply divided society and there’s going to be no way to make any progress unless students learn about what’s going on around them,” Barton said.
Sheila Dennis, faculty member in the School of Social Work, said the partnership between parents and schools is important in meeting the needs of children. From a mental health standpoint, she said the safety of children in school depends on the wellbeing of each and every child.
“It’s always a balance of managing, assessing risk and meeting students’ needs,” Dennis said. “Hopefully, in the best case scenario, everybody can be an active partner. The youth should be the center of that.”
Dennis said the effort between all the factors in a child’s life is what will set them up for success in life.
“Parents have to approach schools as a partnership as well as finding ways to work with the community,” Dennis said. “It’s not just the school’s job, it’s not just the parent’s job. It’s a collaborative effort to support the health, mental health, and learning needs of our kids.”