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Arizona Senate passes bill permitting parents to sue educators who ‘usurp’ their rights

The bill amends the Arizona Parents' Bill of Rights and gives parents access to psychological and medical records.

(CN) — The Arizona Senate passed two controversial education bills Monday, including one that would empower parents to sue if they feel like educators are interfering with their right to direct their child's upbringing, and another that would assist parents in monitoring their child's library habits.

House Bill 2161 expands the Arizona Parents' Bill of Rights — orginally passed in 2010 — by allowing parents to sue any government entity or official that "interferes with or usurps the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.”

The bill further dictates that parents have access to all records concerning their child's academic performance and their physical and mental health — including counseling and psychological records.

HB 2161 would also give parents an avenue to pursue discipline against any school employee, schools, or "any other institution" save for law enforcement that looks to “encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from the child's parent.”

Democrats have historically opposed portions of the state’s Parents' Bill of Rights because it may require schools to disclose any intent to counsel a student on sensitive issues they might not want shared with their parents. In 2010, a mental health counselor and then-state Representative Ed Ableser, a Democrat from Tempe, said the Parents’ Bill of Rights would prevent him from counseling a student who idealized suicide if the parents did not consent. Democrats made a case that confidentiality may be necessary in the case of abusive households or with parents who disapprove of certain care.

State Senator Christine Marsh, a Democrat from Paradise Valley, spoke in opposition to the bill during its final Senate reading Monday.

“The way the bill stands it allows any government entity or government employee to be brought to court by violating the new provision,” Marsh said. “I vote no on this and encourage some of my colleagues to cross the aisle to vote no as well.”

The bill initially contained a provision that would have compelled a health care entity to give parents access to any electronic portal and any other health care delivery platform, but that section was removed due to concerns about the disclosure of medical information and how that may conflict with federal law.

The state Senate’s GOP majority also passed House Bill 2439, which would require school staff to publish a list of new books added to the library’s catalog on their website for at least 60 days.

The bill would also give parents access to a list of books and materials their children check out.

“The best way to find out what your kid is reading in school, or what they're checking out from the library is just to talk to them,” said state Senator Martin Quezada, a Democrat from West Phoenix, during Monday's session. “I mean, if you can't establish that relationship with your own child, and they don't want to tell you what they're reading, then that's emblematic of a bigger problem. Not the fact that the school isn't telling you. That's a problem between you and your child.”

Both bills passed 16–12 along party lines and will go to the Arizona House for a final vote before heading to Republican Governor Doug Ducey for his consideration.

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Categories / Education, Government, Law

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