Controversial parents’ bill of rights nears law

Activists worry a fight within school districts puts politics over the health of students.

As the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” advances in the state legislature, LGBTQ groups are concerned the law would out students to parents without their permission.

Advocates of the bill (HB 241) said it emphasizes parents’ rights and focuses on families.

Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca posed this question at Monday night’s heated school board meeting.

“In the event the child doesn’t want to engage the parent, what are we doing about protecting parental rights? And without parental signature and parental notification? I don’t believe parental rights are being protected,” she said to audience applause.

The school district attorney’s response? “I do think that this new ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights has some provisions in there that will require the district to reevaluate certain things and make sure that we are in compliance,” said Kathy Dupuy-Bruno, Esq.

In the crowd of parents Monday night was Crystal Szyscon. She said outing a student to a parent when they’re not ready is dangerous. Her transgender child confided in friends and teachers before telling her.

“I’ve learned that it is important for a child to feel safe, it is important for a child to test how they’re feeling in a safe nurturing environment,” she said.

Her son was outed to the rest of school in gym class because he was forced to stand in a section with girls prior to new laws that changed that.

“He called while in school, he called a suicide hotline because he was so anxious, so overcome. I immediately went to the school and took him out of school for his safety and put him within virtual school.”

WINK News went to the author of the Senate version of the bill, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, if it’s true. Does the Parents’ Bill of Rights require schools to out the child to their parents?

“The answer to that would be no because we’ve not added anything new,” he replied.

Rodrigues said the only reason LGBTQ groups might be upset is that the bill advertises to parents that they already have the right to request all student files from the school district.

A mental health counselor said the takeaway for transgender students should be that while the odds of a teacher or school counselor putting that information in a file are low, if they do and a parent requests, that information is not protected.

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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