"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Parents Rights: Are they granted by the State?

Note: SB204S1 (Sen. Aaron Osmond) deals with parental rights in education.  It is being suggested that SB204 needs to allow for a role for the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) due to the USBE's outlined role of general supervision and control in the state constitution.  I disagree, and here are my arguments sent to the House Ed committee that will be hearing the bill in the morning.

I would like to ask you to vote in favor of SB204 Sub 1.  I know that SB204 may be substituted to include a role for the USOE and the State Board in determining methods and procedures for parents who are opting out.  There has been some mention of a need to do that in order to preserve their constitutional authority.  I would just like to address that issue, as I disagree.

First, SB204 is not an education bill, but a parental rights bill.  As a state and as a people, we acknowledge the fundamental and foundational role that parents have in raising their children.  Parental rights, while mentioned in state law, do not exist because the state granted those rights, but they exist prior to law as Natural rights.  This was clarified by the Utah Supreme Court majority ruling In re J.P. (Utah, 648 P.2d 1364) authored by Justice Dallin H. Oaks: 'The rights inherent in family relationships--husband-wife, parent-child, and sibling--are the most obvious examples of rights retained by the people.  They are "natural," "intrinsic," or "prior" in the sense that our Constitutions presuppose them...'  As such, the right of a parent to oversee their child's educational experience is not a right that can be granted or removed by any branch of state government, without due process in a court of law.  That would include the State Board of Education, as their role is to merely oversee the public education system, not the parents' rights over the children in that system.

Second,  the only reason that SB204 and it's predecessor SB122, now Utah Code 53A-15-1403, were required is because of actions taken by the legislature.  As such, only the legislature has the power to create the necessary accommodations to ensure the natural rights of parents do not cause problems with the overall system of public education.  For example, the SAGE test was created at the behest of the Legislature.  The requirement for the State Board to administer a statewide test was created by the Legislature.  The requirement of tying teacher evaluations and school grading to these statewide tests was created by the Legislature.  As such, when the implementation of those state laws causes difficulties for teachers and schools and the Utah State Office of Education as parents exercise their inherent rights to remove their children from testing, it is incumbent on the legislature to hold the teachers, schools, and USOE harmless for the actions of those parents.  Parents are not being granted permission to opt out by the state.  Schools and teachers are being held harmless who would have otherwise been 'negatively impacted' by USBE policy previous to the passage of SB122.  SB204 is being addressed to create greater clarity, since parents have found it difficult to exercise those rights as subsequent memos/directives from the USOE have attempted to curtail those rights.   

By the same token, parents will be exercising their natural rights to opt their children out of interim and formative SAGE testing on an on-going basis.  The State, not the local school, is responsible for the privacy, the validity, and the reliability of those tests, since they are the contractor for those tests.  Local charter schools and districts have no oversight and no accountability for the SAGE tests.  Again, that is why the state must be the one to make it plain that students should not be negatively impacted due to the choices of their parents in this endeavor.  Our student's data should not be the currency with which we pay for their public education, against the will of their parents. 

Third, since the state is not granting parental rights, it should not be able to insert an administrative entity, e.g. the USOE, to fulfill those parental rights.  We do not have a USOE form for doctor's appointments or family vacations.  We do not have a state-implied deadline in which parents must inform the school when their child has a dental visit.  Similarly, the USOE has no legal or moral authority to impose a deadline on parents for opting out of testing or requiring a particular form.  While I appreciate that the substitute does require that whatever method is used not be onerous, the USBE and USOE should not be involved at all in this issue.  The USBE and USOE are to oversee the implementation of education in the local district and charter schools.  They do not hold any authority over the parents whose children attend our public schools.  By pretending that they do, we have gone from a system of government that protects rights to a system of government that grants rights.  It is clear that our Founders never believed that government granted rights.  The only proper role of government is in protecting the rights that people already possess.  The involvement of the USBE and USOE in this process does nothing to protect rights, but provides the impression that those rights are being granted by the state and further regulated by the USBE/USOE. 

Please do not vote in favor of the second substitute and leave the proper role of parental rights to that of Natural Rights endowed by our Creator, not rights granted by the Utah Legislature and regulated by the State Board of Education and the USOE.


Wendy Hart
Highland, UT


  1. Common sense always rings true. Thank you for standing for parental rights Wendy Hart.

  2. As usual Wendy you are spot on.

  3. "The only proper role of government is in protecting the rights that people already possess. "

    I would like to understand what you mean by this. I often see this spoken by libertarians who believe in no role for any government other than securing property rights.

    If you believe the government has no role other than protecting the rights of people, then what right is it protecting when it provides for a public education? When it builds parks and swimming pools? When it builds roads?