The Problem: One good that came from the pandemic lockdown is increased parental involvement in their children’s education. After watching over their sons and daughters’ collective shoulder as they did “Zoom school,” parents saw and heard things that caused them to reach out to their schools asking to review the curriculum, questioning what they had heard.
While some schools modeled good communication and respect, other schools ignored parental concerns or, worse, charged them outrageous fees to review the material their children were being taught.
Parents have the constitutional right to “direct the education and upbringing of their children.” When parents and schools work together, communities are strengthened, and children are supported.
The Response: As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Transparency is our best tool to restore confidence in our schools. We need to pass a parents’ bill of rights based on simple principles.
Parents have the right to know what is happening inside their child’s classroom. That should start with the right to see all curricular materials used in class, from textbooks to videos.
Parents should be informed of curriculum titles and material, and they should not have to fill out public records requests should they need to review the material. School boards must include in their curriculum contracts a provision allowing parents to read and review curriculum and to make public excerpts of curriculum
Parents, and all taxpayers, should see how school districts spend their money. The Wisconsin state government posts its entire checkbook online (openbook.wi.gov) as a fast, convenient way for people to know where the money goes. Schools should do the same.
Parents should give their informed consent for controversial topics in the classroom. Wisconsin already applies this principle to sex education, and it works. This principle should apply to all parts of the school curriculum to ensure parents are given notice ahead of time when controversial issues, touching on their deeply held views and values, are discussed.
Parents should have a right to know whether their child is struggling in any way. Likewise, school officials should not withhold information from parents about the emotional, physical or mental struggles facing their child.
Finally, schools should notify parents any time their child is the victim of a criminal act. And unless there are exigent circumstances, parents should be present before a child is ever interviewed by a school resource officer or other on-campus police presence.