‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ advances

Lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday that would create what they are calling the “Parents’ Bill of Rights for Public Schools,” essentially a list of actions parents can take to stay engaged in the education of their children.

Senate Bill 312 sponsored by state Sen. A.G. Crowe, R- Slidell , would give parents the right to examine textbooks, lesson plans, curriculum and their child’s medical and mental health records.

The bill also would require that parents be notified when the child is taken away or removed from campus, if medical services are being offered to their child, if a criminal act has been committed against their child and before the school allows law enforcement to question their children.

Crowe sold the bill to the Senate Education Committee as a way to stop schools from keeping information away from parents. But state Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, argued parents already have all the “rights” listed in the bill.

“Which of these is not already in existing law?” LaFleur asked.

“I can’t answer that,” Crowe said.

LaFleur then questioned a part of the bill that would require schools to “request and expect their child’s family religious beliefs to be respected.”

LaFleur asked Crowe whether that language amounted to a mandate where schools would be required to serve alternative lunches to Catholic students on Fridays during Lent, or set aside morning and afternoon prayer time for Muslim students or serve Kosher meals for Jewish students.

“I don’t know,” Crowe said.

Rick Edmonds, representing the Louisiana Family Forum, cited a number of statistics showing that students whose parents are involved in their schooling generally fare better in school, while the inverse is also true.

LaFleur called that a separate issue.

“I agree totally that parental involvement is important, but that’s not what this bill does,” LaFleur said. “It doesn’t mandate anybody to become a good parent.”

LaFleur eventually relented and offered his support for the bill, by saying having a list of parents’ “rights” spelled out in one place is a good idea.

“It won’t make people better parents, but it will make it easier for parents to exercise their right to be engaged,” he said.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote, however, Crowe promised he would first work with the Louisiana Department of Education and other groups to clear up some of the questions that surfaced during the committee hearing.