Drunken driving is not a legitimate personal choice. It may be one individual’s car, life and driver’s license, but driving drunk also puts other people at risk – and without their consent. It is not a choice society allows.
For some reason we seem to have trouble making similar distinctions when it comes to children.
Senate Bill 77 is a case in point. Passed Thursday by the Colorado Senate Education Committee, the so-called “Parents Bill of Rights” would allow parents to control almost every aspect of their children’s lives – regardless of how their decisions might affect others. It particularly addresses the “right” to refuse immunization and sex education.
This is dangerous nonsense mitigated only by the fact that it is unlikely to become law. Even if passed by the Senate, it is almost certain to die in the House. One of the Senate sponsors, however, is state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.
SB 77 would impose a number of requirements on schools to notify parents about virtually every detail of their children’s schooling. It would require written permission for a number of seemingly innocuous things and require parents be notified promptly if anyone in any official capacity “suspects that a criminal offense has been committed against the minor child by someone other than a parent.”
Above all, it gives parents what amounts to a line-item veto. Under SB 77, school districts would be required to develop a policy “to promote the involvement of parents” that “must include” procedures by which parents will be informed of their students’ courses, curriculum, learning materials – “including the source of any supplemental education materials.” Parents must be allowed to review such material, and the policy must also specify how parents can object to any material their children will be taught with.
The bill devotes the most words to sex education, but would do the most damage with one line. It would require schools to notify parents 15 days before any sex education classes begin and give the same 15-day notification as to how to withdraw one’s child from a sex education class.
Among the items the bill mandates, however, are: “Procedures by which a parent can learn about the parental rights and responsibilities under the laws of this state, including the right to: ... Be exempt from any immunization laws of this state.”
That is nuts, pure and simple. It is not a medical exemption, not a religious exemption, not even a philosophical out. It is a straightforward negation of the requirement that students be vaccinated. It is a denial of more than 200 years of science, history and human progress.
And this is in the name of parental rights? No parent has the right to endanger other people’s kids, let alone the broader community. Do these people not notice that smallpox is not around anymore? That iron lungs are a thing of the past? Do they not understand that measles is in the news precisely because it had been essentially eradicated?
SB 77 is wrongheaded on a number of levels. Schools do not need micromanaging parents. And if parents want more control they can actually talk to their kids, visit their schools, get to know the teachers and maybe even vote in school board elections.
But on immunization, this bill would also go in the wrong direction. Colorado should be tightening its immunization law, not effectively dropping it. And Ellen Roberts should know better.