Parents, Teachers and Lawmakers speak their piece on parental rights in committee meetings
The Wyoming Legislature met on Friday, November 14th and 15th in a Joint Education meeting to discuss parental rights in schools. Through two days and four different sessions, the Joint Education Committee looked at school infrastructure, teacher pay, student health, community college, scholarships and school boards.
One of the more contentious areas of debates was the Parental Rights in Education bill, which aims to strengthen the rights of parents to make decisions for their children on issues like school provided healthcare or questionnaires distributed to students. The committee deliberated for nearly four hours and recognized nearly 20 public commenters, one of which was State Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder.
Degenfelder “I think that the bill does three important things: number one, provides notification, number two, access, and number three, a due process,” Degenfelder said.
The Superintendent was followed by a number of concerned parents who had various levels of support for strengthening parental rights. In one case, a resident from Natrona County accused Senator Brown in Cheyenne of taking away parents rights at school when dropping off their child.
Senator Brown said, “ I never said that you gave up your rights, that was never indicated. What I stated, which is legal doctrine [that] goes back and has been litigated many, many times, is that when a parent drops off a student, the teacher and the administration within that school district do act in-loco-parentis [a Latin phrase that means "in the place of a parent"].They act as a reasonably prudent person.”
The majority of public commentators were in favor of the bill. However some commenters like Kirk Schmidt, a former school superintendent, believed an all-encompassing state approach won’t solve issues between children, the school and parents as effectively as local school boards can.
“You cannot make a policy that's going to take care of all problems.You're not going to make a statue that's going to take care of all problems, it's just not going to happen” said Schmit.
Ultimately, the draft legislation passed 10-4.The next phase for the bill is to head to the Legislative Service Office for legal review before getting introduced to the senate.