Parents everywhere got a look at what their students were learning when schools went online in 2020. And many were not pleased with what they saw.
We’re seeing a shift in public education in America. Many school boards are adopting policies based on radical ideologies—and they’re shutting parents out in the process.
Thankfully, Alliance Defending Freedom has launched a new team of litigators dedicated to protecting parental rights in court.
Below, Director of the Center for Parental Rights Kate Anderson answers questions about the new team and the increasing threat to parental rights in the United States.
What rights do parents have?
Parents have the right to govern the upbringing and education of their kids. And they are in the best position to do that because they know their children like no one else.
The Constitution of the United States recognizes this fundamental right. And, at the federal level, there are decades of cases affirming this fundamental right. Yet, courts still don’t always protect parents’ rights, so our team is working to ensure that parental rights are afforded the same level of protection as other fundamental freedoms like speech and free exercise of religion.
In addition to the federal protections, some states have recognized parents’ right in state law, like Virginia for example. We are hopeful more states will add such protections.
Are parents' rights at risk?
Yes. More and more, we are seeing attacks on parental rights. Many of these attacks are coming from educational policies in public schools that unconstitutionally interfere with parents’ rights and responsibilities to govern the upbringing and education of their children.
These educational policies leave parents in the dark about what their child is learning and experiencing at schools. Sometimes these policies even affirmatively hide information from parents about their own child’s mental health and well-being.
But parents have the right to be parents. We don’t co-parent with the government.
Tell me a little about what you’re doing at ADF to advance parental rights.
Alliance Defending Freedom has been involved in cases seeking to protect parents’ rights for a very long time.
But, more recently, we’ve formed a team of five attorneys 100% dedicated to protecting parents through litigation. Mostly, we’re litigating cases concerning parents’ rights in public schools.
It’s been such a joy for me to launch this team. I was myself a public-school kid, and my mom taught in public schools. There are so many opportunities and benefits in public education, but, unfortunately, we’re seeing those threatened.
Some school officials are pushing equity initiatives and incorporating some pretty radical ideas on children, such as gender theory and critical race theory.
These policies are violating the constitutional rights of students, parents, and teachers and interfering with the ability of parents to do what they know is best for their children.
How have gender identity policies started to affect parental rights, particularly in our public schools?
Schools across the country are adopting policies based on critical theory, including gender theory and critical race theory.
Gender theory in particular sets up schools to allow—and often encourage—students dealing with gender confusion to change their identity at school while hiding the information from parents. In some circumstances, school districts actively lie to parents about their child’s identity.
Children struggling with gender dysphoria, or the belief that they should be the opposite sex, need our compassion and help. But, shutting their parents out of this struggle is antithetical to this goal. These types of policies put vulnerable children on the path toward transition to the opposite sex, making it much more likely that a child will go through additional medical steps aimed at a gender transition.
Experts have testified that this is harmful to children. And studies have shown that allowing a child to naturally work through gender confusion with the help of a good counselor almost always results in the child accepting their biological sex.
We’ve been hearing from parents across the country whose children are caught up in these disturbing policies. Earlier this year, we sent a letter to Harrisonburg City Public Schools in Virginia, which had a policy of hiding information about children’s gender identity struggles from parents. With the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, we have two ongoing cases against similar policies, one, in Madison, Wisconsin, and one against the Kettle Moraine School District, also in Wisconsin.
Is there anything else parents should be concerned about in their child’s school?
Unfortunately, yes. We’re also seeing an increase in school boards adopting policies based on critical race theory—a radical and racist ideology that requires students and teachers to view everyone and everything through the lens of race.
This is problematic for several reasons, one of which is that students’ rights are violated because school policies treat them differently based on their racial, ethnic, or religious background.
We have a case right now against another school district in Virginia, Albemarle County Public Schools.