H.R. 5 – Parental Rights Act

Have you read the Bill that recently passed the House, H.R. 5 – Parental Rights Act?  If not, you can do so at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/5/text 

The Bill is now before the Senate.

The sections pertinent to literacy professionals are:

  1.  A parent will have the right to a list of all books and reading (instructional) materials in the school;
  2. A parent will have the right to “inspect” all such books and reading materials;
  3. At the beginning of each school year, ALL parents, for each child, will be provided a list of every book in the school library;
  4. Parents will be provided an opportunity (at any time) to “inspect” all such books and other reading material.
  5. Parents will have the right to “inspect” all professional development materials utilized by schools;
  6. Local educational agencies have no right to provide direction to non-public elementary or public schools.
Have YOU read H.R. 5?

I do think parents should be afforded a generalized right-to-know, First Amendment parameters considered, but my concerns are:

  1. Think of the man-power that will go into providing a list of thousands of books to each and every parent every school year!  Will someone be hired for this purpose?
  2. How do we define “inspection?”  It is not well-defined at all.  Most well-written bills have a “definition” section to provide clarity.  Will this omission open the door to “bullying” of librarians and/or ELA teachers, if not properly defined? Will parents be allowed to take the materials from the school premises as a form of unsubstantiated or incorrectly processed (via administrative channels) challenges, overriding a school’s selection and collection development policies? Will parents be allowed to deface the material? Clearly, the absence of a definition opens the door to an abuse of First Amendment Rights.
  3. Professional development materials have been highly vetted by professionals within the field of education.  Why is a laymen allowed to inspect these particular materials, and, again, what is the definition of “inspect?”
  4. Are private and charter schools being allowed more “power” over the direction of “public” education, since they are exempt from parental inspection? Will the result be a growing lack of respect for the efforts of our public school systems, and is this provision a move/ploy to actually require ALL parents to pay for expensive private schools (corporatization of America’s schools)?
  5. What of the First Amendment Rights of students and/or the precepts found in the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read statement?

As Benjamin Franklin stated, the best road is the middle road, where all parties are considered and heard.  As conceived, and poorly imagined, this particular Bill will lead to dissension, instead of inclusion and progress toward best practices and/or a voice for ALL stakeholders.  The Bill’s supporters and drafting experts could have used the opportunity to address our current concerns and issues in a thorough and thoughtful manner, but, alas, as written and passed by the House, will lead to additional stress and confusion placed upon parents, children, educational professionals, school librarians (especially) and our educational systems.

Your thoughts?