Abbott introduces new 'parental bill of rights'

Parents in Texas may soon have more control over their children’s education.

At a campaign stop in Lewisville, Texas, late last week, Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is running for reelection this year, introduced plans for a new “Parental Bill of Rights.”

The bill would amend the state’s constitution to “reinforce that parents are the primary decision makers in all matters involving their children,” according to a news release.

“When it comes to the classroom, Texas parents should have every right to know what their children are being taught,” Abbott said. “Under my plan, we will expand parents’ access to course curriculum, and all material that is available in schools. Also, we will ensure that if a parent has a concern about curriculum or policies, that those concerns are heard quickly and respectfully.”

According to Abbott, parents under his plan will also have the power to decide whether their child will repeat a course or grade level, rather than leaving that decision solely up to the student’s teachers or other school officials.

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Abbott added that a main tenet of his Parental Bill of Rights is to protect children in Texas while they are in school. That includes protecting them from content deemed inappropriate or unfit for the classroom, he said.

“Under this plan, Texas will also ensure that any educational personnel convicted of providing minors with pornographic materials will lose all their educational credentials and state licensing, plus forfeit their retirement benefits and be placed on the do not hire list,” he said.

In a November letter to the Texas Association of School Boards’ executive director, Abbott claimed that parents had the right to “shield their children from obscene content in schools” and “pornographic or obscene material” should not be provided to students, though he did not provide any specific examples of such content.

A week later, Abbott directed the Texas Education Agency to develop standards preventing the circulation of “pornography” and other “obscene content in Texas public schools.” This time, he referenced Maia Kobabe’s heavily challenged “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “In the Dream House.”

Both titles detail same-sex relationships and mature content, such as domestic abuse, but are recommended for high school-aged readers.

Just days later, Abbott gave an additional directive to the state’s education agency to investigate the “the availability of pornography” in the public school system.

“During this investigation, I ask the agency to refer any instance of pornography being provided to minors under the age of 18 for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law,” he wrote at the time. According to the Texas Penal Code, the sale, distribution and display of “harmful material” to minors is punishable by a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

Abbott also signed two bills into law last year banning Texas educators from teaching students about critical race theory.

“When Texas parents were rightfully upset about CRT being taught in Texas schools, I signed two bills banning CRT in Texas public schools. Now Texas has the toughest anti-CRT protections in the nation,” he said last week in Lewisville.

Civil rights groups have denounced Abbott’s efforts to limit Texas students’ exposure to race and LGBTQ+ people and issues, calling them “unlawful.”

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