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Eye On Boise

Parental rights bill clears House panel after much debate, heads to full House

HB 567, Rep. Janet Trujillo’s parental rights bill, has cleared the House Education Committee after a long debate, and now moves to the full House. Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, told the committee, “Parental rights, as we take education in a different direction within the state, are being violated.” She added, “We will encourage involvement, and maybe involvement by parents who haven’t felt the need before.”

Two moms testified in favor of the bill, saying it would allow them to opt out of things like standardized testing for their children or use of a required laptop computer. “I guess here we are, hoping to protect in writing that which was already mine, endowed by my creator,” Stacey Knudsen told the committee. Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council, urged support for the bill. “Parental rights are under siege as are so many of our other rights,” she said. “Courts will be able to have something firm to stand on in Idaho statute that affirms parents’ fundamental rights.”

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, asked Lynde if the bill would, for example, allow a parent to veto a teacher’s assignment for a student to read Huckleberry Finn and write a book report. Lynde responded, “It says parents have a right to be involved in their child’s education, and not only that, but it’s best that the parent is involved.”

Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association said, “While this legislation is certainly better than the first version we were given, ISBA … doesn’t understand the need for it.” She also said the bill appears to inaccurately quote the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked Echeverria if she’d heard of the United Nations Treaty on the Rights of the Child. “That’s been around since 1989,” Mendive said. “This is a very real threat. … Currently there are only two nations that have not ratified this treaty, that would be the United States and Somalia. … There is a threat out there, whether or not it’s real, I think it is. … This is sadly necessary in this day and age to try to protect the rights of parents, because parental rights are under assault, some from within and some from the international community.”

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, proposed a small amendment, to remove the word “obligation,” based on the Attorney General’s office advice. Clow said with that word in there, the bill could be interpreted as doing the opposite of what its sponsors intend – people could argue that parents have an obligation to participate in their children’s education, including by putting their kids through all required testing and the like. But his motion to amend the bill was voted down, and the original motion, from Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, passed on a voice vote. Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, declared, “No one loves my kids more than me.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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