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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Initiative enhancing parental rights over school-aged children approved by Washington legislature

The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia, photographed Jan. 5, 2017, features the classic dome architecture and houses the governor’s office and the Legislature’s two chambers.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

An initiative crafting a “parents bill of rights” will soon become law after it passed the state Senate and House of Representatives on Monday.

Initiative 2081 will grant parents of public school students the right to review classroom materials, including textbooks and curriculum, and easily access their child’s academic and medical records. Parents can also opt their children out of assignments related to the students’ sexual experiences or the family’s religious or political beliefs.

It unanimously passed the Senate and flew through the House on an 82-15 vote, with all of the Spokane area’s delegation in support.

Approval of the initiative by supermajorities of both houses of the Legislature means it will become law without needing a vote of the people.

Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, said roughly 90% of these rights already exist under state or federal law, but acknowledged how confusing it can be to find and understand them.

“This initiative seeks to clarify all these rights and inform parents in plain and straightforward terms what they can expect to know about their children while they’re in school,” she said.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, agreed and said “clouded” public policy has left parents and guardians wondering how to become involved with their child’s education.

“More and more decisions are made in Olympia rather than the school boards,” said Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane.

He noted how Spokane parents have recently become much more involved with their local school board races because they’re feeling “pushed out” by statewide legislation. The passing of this initiative “restrikes the balance” between parents and the state, he said.

Despite concerns voiced during public testimony last week about the potential targeting of homeless, LGBTQ+ or other marginalized youth groups, Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, emphasized the initiative does not alter existing protections for these groups.

“The Legislature and our allies will be keeping our eyes on implementation so that we can come back immediately should interpretation by districts cause any harm to young people,” she said.

This initiative is set to go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns on Thursday.