DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate Education Committee approved SSB 3079 last Thursday (now renumbered as SF 2205). The legislation outlines a bill of rights for parents and guardians of students in public schools, including charter schools.
The list of rights includes:
- The right to know what their student is being taught.
- The right to review and access information related to those who are teaching their student, including guest lecturers, and those contracting with or receiving money from the school district unless the release of that information is prohibited by state or federal law.
- The right to reasonable access to their student during the school day unless prohibited by state or federal law or a court order.
- The right to access and review their student’s school records unless state law prohibits a particular record from being disclosed.
- The right to access and review data and information on their student collected by the school
- The right to access and review information necessary to ensure the accountability and transparency of the board of directors of the school district or the governing board of the charter school
- The right to access and review information related to their student’s safety at school unless that information is deemed confidential by state or federal law
The bill also requires schools not to require students to engage in any activity, including instruction and tests, that involves obscene material without a parent or guardian’s written consent.
The legislation adds that schools “must make every effort” to ensure students can’t access sexually material in a classroom or on school owned devices. It also states that schools shall not allow minor children to check out sexually explicit material from a library without prior written consent from parents.
An Iowa Senate subcommittee consisting of State Senators Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, and Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, approved the bill on Wednesday noting that the bill needed amendments.
Sinclair, who chaired the subcommittee, noted there would be language added acknowledging that students bring their own devices to school.
“Schools can’t be expected to monitor all kids’ private, personal devices that are sent by the parent. You’ve already made that decision to give your child a device. And if you’ve made that decision, the school should not be responsible for that decision that you’ve made,” she said.
Sinclair also said an amendment would also add language that excludes a record of a student telling a teacher or administrator about potential child abuse, neglect, or criminal activity of the parent.
“So we want to make sure we’re protecting teachers and schools, we want to make sure that that we’re not isolating a child from services that they need, or that we’re not blaming a school district or a school employee for activity that is beyond their control. We want this to be a partnership. We want schools to be a place where students learn and grow. And that that learning and growth is directed by the child’s parents and that we don’t turn ourselves into a place where we make children wards of a Marxist state,” she said.
Taylor said the bill addresses the “exceptions to the rule” in Iowa’s K-12 schools, noting that most teachers and schools respect parental rights.
“We’re trying to improve what we already have, which is is a good system, and to make it even better,” he said.
Quirmbach agreed with the intent of the bill.
“We want parents to be partners with the schools in educating the kids and helping them with their growth and development. And we can’t do that if parents aren’t informed about what’s going on in the school,” he said.
Several groups registered support for the bill: The FAMiLY Leader, VALOR Iowa, Homeschool Iowa, and Iowa Catholic Conference. Education groups and groups like One Iowa and Iowa Safe Schools were registered undecided. No one expressed opposition to the bill.