Hibben: Parents’ Opinions Don’t Belong In Public Education


Claire Peterson

(Graphic by Claire Peterson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Aya Hibben, Opinion Writer


For years, many have advocated for parents to have more control over course content in public schools. From Critical Race Theory to sexual education, many parents have argued that they should have ultimate authority over what their children learn.

In Utah, schools already need parental consent before teaching sexual education, and in 2021, the Utah State Board of Education took steps to ban parts of CRT. However, Sen. John Johnson wants to further protect parents’ “primary authority and responsibility” to their children’s education with Senate Bill 157.

The controversial bill allows parents to pull their children from course content they find “objectionable.” Even more disturbing, it would also give parents the right to sue teachers and school officials to seek monetary damages for the content they disagree with.

Allowing parents to have “ultimate authority” over what students learn is not only a legal disaster but also completely goes against the point of public education. If the Utah State Legislature passes this bill, students will miss out on important content and our legal system will become burdened by overbearing amounts of frivolous lawsuits from parents. Parents who wish to keep their children back from the benefits of a public school may homeschool their children instead.

“Objectionable Content”

While S.B. 157 strictly clarifies the ultimate authority of a parent over their child’s education, it doesn’t explain the definition behind “objectionable content.” This highly personal phrase would allow parents to pull their children from any content they disagree with, such as important historical concepts like the Holocaust or the teachings of evolution.

Children should not have their education interrupted by their parents’ personal or political beliefs. Pulling students from classes will prevent them from having a cohesive and conducive learning environment. They will miss important course content that will build a strong foundation for their future educational endeavors.

For parents who wish to control what their children learn, homeschooling is always an option. Utah is an incredibly friendly state for parents who would prefer this route. A parent only needs to submit an affidavit to their local school district.

Parents Suing Teachers

This bill places parents and teachers in a war with one another. Parents will be able to scrutinize and punish any “objectionable” word, textbook or class activity. On the other side, teachers will have to bow down to the opinions and preferences of parents, many of whom did not study education. Teachers are professionals and should be respected as academics who share their great knowledge and experience with our future generations. They are not targets for parents’ concerns and complaints.

Let’s not forget the painful past of “parental freedom” in our country. The decision in Brown v. Board stood against the racist and often violent opinions of white parents who stood against progress and equality, prioritizing their own beliefs over the greater good. This legislation lays the ground for parents to stand in the way of equal and fair education.

Protections for Speech

In addition, this bill adds an odd and outrageous reach of protection for elected officials. Their freedom of speech “may not be restricted or impaired,” seemingly referring to an incident last year with Natalie Cline. She was reprimanded by the Utah Board of Education after spewing hateful criticism of LGBTQ+ students. This bill would grant immunity for individuals who are supposed to create equitable and factual course content for students. This hypocritical addition to the bill allows for elected officials to say offensive comments, while heavily criticizing teachers for simply teaching state-approved curriculum.

Instead of prioritizing “parental freedom,” we should push for our children to have the right to learn and grow into independent humans, away from their parents’ own political beliefs. Public education should never prevent students from learning about institutional racism, basic lessons in history or even about their own anatomy.

While this bill does address many parents’ concerns about their rights in education, it fails both students and teachers. Parents’ opinions do not belong in fact-based public school content, and allowing them to have “ultimate authority” allows for a biased, opinion-based education system. The Utah State Legislature should stand against this bill, and protect both students and teachers from parents’ assaults on truthful education.


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