Statehouse roundup, 2.17.23: Parental rights bill emerges in the House, awaits committee hearing

A bill codifying parental rights in public education cleared its first hurdle Friday morning.

The bill outlines the responsibilities of districts and charters in keeping parents informed about their child’s education. It requires school districts to develop policies and processes that promote parental engagement, and improve communication between districts and parents or guardians.

The bill would require public schools to:

  • Develop processes for parents to review curricular materials, and withdraw their child from courses with teaching materials they find objectionable.
  • Notify parents of changes in their child’s mental, emotional or physical health, and facilitate conversations between students and families when appropriate.
  • Seek permission from parents before administering any survey related to a student’s sexuality, sex, religion, political beliefs, mental or psychological health, personal family information or financial information.
  • Notify parents when a student has been questioned by law enforcement (unless the questioning is related to suspicions of child abuse).
  • Allow parents to observe classes and other school activities, unless visitation interferes with teaching.
  • Maintain open communication with parents about student health and wellness, or changes in related services (unless otherwise prohibited by law or the courts).

If a parent’s rights are violated, the legislation allows them to file an official complaint with their school. Districts and charters would be required to implement procedures to handle such complaints. If a complaint is not remedied, the legislation gives parents the option to seek legal relief.

State superintendent Debbie Critchfield presented the bill before the House Education Committee Friday.

Most districts and charters already have these policies and procedures in place, she said. But codifying them would ensure parents have the tools readily available to seek information and hold schools accountable. This was one of the biggest asks from both parents and educators on the campaign trail, and from her transition team after the election, Critchfield said.

Legislators voted unanimously to send the bill to print. It now awaits a committee hearing.

JFAC approves $1 million supplemental for U of I

Legislative budget-writers approved $1 million to cover some of the University of Idaho’s costs stemming from a November quadruple homicide.

The line item would help offset a variety of expenses, including Idaho State Police patrols and enhanced security, campus shuttles, student counseling, and a campus vigil honoring the homicide victims.

Four U of I students — Ethan Chapin, 20, a freshman from Mount Vernon, Wash.; Kaylee Goncalves, 21, a senior from Rathdrum; Xana Kernodle, 20, a junior from Post Falls; and Madison Mogen, 21, a senior from Coeur d’Alene — were killed in an off-campus house on Nov. 13.

The $1 million won’t cover all of the added costs stemming from the slayings. President C. Scott Green has said the security costs alone have exceeded $1 million.

But the line item will offset some costs, said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, a Boise Democrat and the grandmother of two U of I students, and will cover some of the services the U of I provided to students and the community. “I was just so pleased with what they did and how they responded.”

With the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee’s 20-0 vote, the budget goes to the Legislature. It must pass the House and the Senate before going to Gov. Brad Little’s desk.


Kevin Richert and Sadie Dittenber

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