Do Parents Have Rights?

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Most parents of public school students probably assume they have certain rights, even if those rights are not always honored. They may not realize that the courts have addressed this issue a number of times and have concluded that once parents deliver their children to the front door of a public school, the parents and the children both forfeit many rights they’d normally have.

Consider this excerpt from the Nov. 2, 2005 opinion of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (and note that it confirms the opinion of another court). The Ninth Circuit case was specifically addressing interviews conducted with children in a California school in which first, third, and fifth graders were asked explicit sexual questions as well as other disturbing and intrusive questions. The parents who sued lost their case.

Excerpt: [O]nce parents make the choice as to which school their children will attend, …their fundamental right to control the education of their children is, at the least, substantially diminished. The constitution does not vest parents with the authority to interfere with a public school’s decision as to how it will provide information to its students or what information it will provide, in its classrooms or otherwise. See Yoder, 406 U.S. at 205. Perhaps the Sixth Circuit said it best when it explained,

“While parents may have a fundamental right to decide whether to send their child to a public school, they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child. Whether it is the school curriculum, the hours of the school day, school discipline, the timing and content of examinations, the individuals hired to teach at the school, the extracurricular activities offered at the school or, as here, a dress code, these issues of public education are generally ‘committed to the control of state and local authorities.'”

Read the entire court decision.

Update:  The Supreme Court declined to review the Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling after parents’ appealed the decision.