Missouri state senator files Parents’ Bill of Rights, aims to increase transparency with school boards

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Sen. Andrew Koenig is sponsoring a Parents’ Bill of Rights in an effort to create more transparency between school districts and students’ parents. 

If passed, SB 810 would establish “The Parents’ Bill of Rights for Student Well-Being” along with other provisions to Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). 

“One thing we’re trying to do is to create transparency,” Koenig, R-St. Louis County, told The Heartlander. “Obviously transparency is a key component because I think due to COVID and online learning, that has caused people to be able to see what’s being taught in the schools.”

The legislation would require each school district to consult with parents, teachers and administrators to develop a policy to promote parental involvement in the school system. This would include a plan for parental participation, and procedures allowing parents to object to certain classroom materials and to withdraw their children from certain sexual education coursework, among other provisions.

The bill also would prohibit any employee of a government entity, school district or public institution from encouraging or coercing a minor child to withhold information from their parent. 

“I think we’ve seen that our parents are upset about what’s being taught,” Koenig said. “We need to create accountability in the school system, and I think accountability means giving parents more control. After all, I believe parents care about their kids more than the institution of a school district, so we need to give as much power to those parents as possible.” 

Koenig’s bill is in response to swaths of parents nationwide reporting controversial topics in their children’s school curriculum, but school boards refusing to address their concerns. Parental concerns include critical race theory, The 1619 Project and other race-based narratives. Many have argued the pandemic was the first time parents had a lens into what their child was learning at school. 

Under SB 810, a parent may file a formal objection with the school board to any school policy, practice or procedure that violates provisions in the bill. Within 30 days, the school board must either deny the complaint or issue “an implementation plan to immediately exempt the child from the policy, practice or procedure,” according to the bill summary. Parents would have 15 days to appeal a school board’s decision to DESE.

Additionally, SB 810 would create the “Missouri Education Transparency and Accountability Portal” for a detailed look into what public schools are teaching. The portal would be an online tool where any citizen can access each school district’s curriculum, source materials and professional development materials.

Koenig also is sponsoring SB 647, which would establish an appeals process similar to SB 810 for parents who object to certain policies, practices or procedures of a school district. 

Although DESE would not comment on specific pending legislation, Chief Communications Officer Mallory McGowin said in a statement to The Heartlander, “Transparency is a cornerstone of operations for any public entity.” 

Koenig’s Parents’ Bill of Rights has been referred to the Senate Education Committee, where it is awaiting a hearing.

“I think there’s a good chance we’ll pass something related to CRT,” Koenig said. “I’m not sure if it will be Senate Bill 810 or Senate Bill 647, or someone else’s bill where some of these ideas get put into another bill. But I do think there’s enough momentum on the Republican side and enough parents are upset about it that we are likely to get something done.”

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