DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Senate on Thursday passed SF 2080, a bill that prohibits public schools from conducting “invasive physical examinations” or student health screenings not required by state or federal law without a parent’s or guardian’s written consent.
The bill applies to school districts, charter schools, and innovation zone schools. The bill does not apply to an emancipated minor or a minor not residing with the parent or guardian.
It allows examinations in emergent care situations or cooperating with a child abuse assessment.
The Iowa Senate passed the bill unanimously, 47 to 0, but not without some debate.
State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, offered an amendment that added non-public schools to the bill’s language.
“As a parent of a child in the public schools, I know that this is the practice to require consent for exams for our children. I know there may have been some concerns. I haven’t heard any. But I understand the need to put it in writing to underscore this practice that is already taking place to make sure that there aren’t any situations where their child would be examined without their consent. But I feel very strongly that you know, we’re concerned about parents’ rights, that we make sure that we’re preserving parents’ rights in every educational institution and private schools should not be left out of it,” she said.
State Senator Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, the bill’s manager, opposed the amendment.
“Parents do have involvement when they send their child to a non-public school. They’ve already chosen that opportunity for them, and they’re not compelled by the state to attend there,” she said.
“It just seems like an oversight that we would not preserve this right for parents in every educational institution, in every situation, to make sure that all parents’ rights were being preserved, no matter what educational choice they make for their child. It is our role to ensure the protection of children no matter where they are,” Trone Garriott said in her closing comments.
Her amendment lost, along party lines, by a 32 to 15 vote.
State Senator Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, remarked during the debate that he thought it was strange the bill didn’t pass even though Republicans were considering a “vouchers” bill he said would give non-public schools public monies.
“Why we would want to use public monies to send your kids to the private schools where, as a result of this amendment, parents will have fewer rights is very difficult to understand,” he said.
The bill considered by the Iowa Senate Quirmbach referred to does not set up vouchers but education savings accounts controlled by parents. Under the legislation, should it pass, no money would go from the state directly to the school.
Sinclair offered closing comments on the bill.
“It should be best practice that districts would get parental consent before conducting a screening on a child. The impetus of this bill comes from the fact that I was contacted by several parents from around the state where this was not the case and therefore the bill is coming before us so that so that parents who ought to be involved in every step of a child’s health care needs are aware of that in advance of any screenings taking place,” she said.