The House voted Friday to pass the Parents Bill of Rights Act despite objections from Democrats who argued the bill was intended to promote “fascism” and “extreme” Republican views by allowing parents to ban more books and LBGTQ+ students easily.
The GOP bill is a response to growing anger across the country over access to information about everything from school curricula to safety and mask policies to the prevalence of gender ideology and of critical race theory in the classroom. Parental anger over the issues at school board meetings has led the Biden administration’s Justice Department to examine the “disturbing trend” of violent threats against school officials.
House Republicans responded by approving the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which would require school districts to give parents access to the curriculum and reading lists and require schools to notify parents if school staff begin encouraging or to promote the gender transition of their child.
The bill narrowly passed in a 213-208 vote that saw only a handful of Republicans vote against it, along with all Democrats.
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Democrats lambasted the bill during this week’s debate by accusing Republicans of attacking LGBTQ+ students.
“This Republican bill asks the government to force LGBT people out before they are ready,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., said on the House floor. “When we talk about progressive values, I can say what my progressive value is, and that’s freedom over fascism.”
Republicans have dismissed that argument, saying parents have a right to know what’s happening to their children in school, especially if schools promote gender transition without their knowledge.
“The bill does not address a student’s identity or statements, but is only intended to inform parents of actions taken by school staff to affect a gender transition, such as changing pronouns or changing locker rooms,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, RN. C., who chairs the House Education & Commerce Committee.
The bill states that parents have “the right to know if a school employee or contractor is taking action to…change a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name; or… allow a child to change facilities based on the child’s gender, including changing rooms or bathrooms.
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Democrats have also accused Republicans of trying to facilitate a school book ban, and several Democrats have said Republicans are seeking to ban books across the country on a range of topics.
“Maga’s extreme Republicans don’t want America’s children learning about the Holocaust,” charged House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. “They want to ban a book called ‘Melissa,’ a book that describes, in very personal terms, the experience of a trans girl coming to terms with her identity.”
“They want to ban books, they want to bully the LGBTQ+ community, they want to bring guns into the classrooms, into kindergarten and above. This is their educational program,” he added.
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Republicans dismissed those arguments, saying the bill does nothing to ban the books and gives parents the right to see a list of books in school libraries and access those books.
“Nowhere in this bill does it ban books,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., who said the purpose of the language is to make sure parents are aware sexually explicit books in school libraries.
Norman and others have also argued that the books under attack in some states and communities are those that include explicit sexual content which they say is not appropriate for certain ages and not a basic educational requirement. Norman cited books that talk about children who have been “sexually active since the age of six” or that include “explicit images of oral sex.”
“Parents, is this something you want your kids to read?” Norman asked. “Parents, is this something that encourages academics and allows this child to compete in the 21st century?”
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The bill passed by the House today would also notify parents of plans to eliminate programs for gifted and talented children, warn them of any violent activity taking place at school, and give parents the right to speak at school board meetings.
This includes a sense of Congress that says school districts “should welcome and encourage this engagement and consider this feedback when making decisions.”
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