A guidebook by a parental rights group is stressing that parents have a legal right to know what pronouns their children use for themselves in classrooms, challenging some schools’ gender-inclusion policies and calling for transparency in lessons about gender and race.
The Moms for America guidebook, released Tuesday, notes that Congress recognized the “primary responsibility” of parents to educate their children when it created the Education Department in 1979. That includes parents’ rights to sit in on their children’s classes and review school records if they suspect a teacher is hiding something about lessons on gender identity or racism, the Missouri-based group says.
“We created this guide so that parents can take back the power that schools think is OK to take away from concerned moms and dads,” said Tamra Farah, a senior director at Moms for America and author of the 10-page guide.
The guide, “A Mom’s Guide to Parental Rights,” arrives as a growing number of schools allow or even instruct teachers to hide the gender pronouns children use on campus.
For example, the Harrisonburg City Public Schools in Virginia was sued this month by six parents and teachers over a policy that requires educators to hide students’ pronouns and transitions from “unsupportive” parents.
The guide says parents have a right under federal laws to review curriculum and “opt out” of any school surveys that request personal information about their children’s sexuality or religion.
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The guidebook’s language echoes that of legislation in several Republican-led states that have enacted parental rights laws. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis in March signed a law that bars K-3 public schools from teaching about or discussing sexuality and gender identity.
Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Mr. DeSantis, on Tuesday signaled the Republican governor’s support for the new guidebook.
“Parents deserve to know what their kids are learning in school and to impart their own values to their kids. School is for learning math, reading, writing, not ideological indoctrination,” Ms. Pushaw said in an email.
Some free-speech advocates, however, slammed the guide.
“It spreads misinformation and conspiracy theories about sex ed, critical race theory, and teachers ‘hiding’ curricular information from parents, insists falsely that public schools are ‘endangering’ children, and assumes that all parents hold extreme views on education and sexuality that, in fact, a majority of parents oppose,” said Jeremy Young, director of free expression for the nonprofit PEN America.
Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of the history of education at the University of Pennsylvania, said the guide could be used to encourage parents to “remove important ideas from American classrooms.”
“Race and gender are controversial concepts right now, which is precisely why we need a full and free discussion of them,” said Mr. Zimmerman, author of an upcoming book on Trump-era culture wars in public schools.
Conservative educators disagreed.
“Mothers across the United States have been activated. There’s nothing quite like messing with one’s child, and mama bear comes out in full force,” said Andrea Haitz, a mother elected last year as president of Colorado’s District 51 school board.
“The guide for parental rights is something parents have long needed. As a parent, trying to navigate the public school bureaucracy can be overwhelming,” she added.