Saturday, February 18, 2012

Parents' Bill of Rights

Did you know Arizona has a Parents' Bill of Rights?  In 2010, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill to protect the right of parents “to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.”  In enacting the law, the legislature pronounced that such right is “fundamental” and free from governmental intrusion.  (Arizona Revised Statute Sections 1-601 and 1-602; see also ARS Section 15-102.)  As a parent, the law protects certain specified rights, including (subject to certain exceptions) the right to:   
  • Direct the education of your child
  • Access and review your child’s medical and school records (which is also a right under other federal and state laws);
  • Direct the upbringing of your child;
  • Direct the moral or religious training of your child;
  • Make health care decisions for your child;
  • Be informed of the intent to perform a biometric scan and the requirement that written permission be obtained before a biometric scan is performed on your child;
  • Provide written permission before any record of your child’s blood or DNA is created, stored, or shared;
  • Provide written permission before any videos or voice recordings are made of your child (except for school and school bus safety and surveillance, “legitimate academic or extracurricular activities,” a purpose related to “regular classroom instruction,” and photo id cards);
  • Be notified promptly if there is suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed against your child
  • Access information about a Child Protective Services investigation involving you and your child. 
(A.R.S. 1-602.)
The law promotes parental involvement in their children’s education by requiring school district governing boards to consult with parents, teachers and school administrators to adopt a policy providing for parents to:
  • Participate in the schools;
  • Learn about course content and review learning materials;
  • Withdraw their children from any school activity, class or program that contains material they find harmful and/or which questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion;
  • Provide consent before their child may participate in sex education;
  • Be notified in advance and be given the opportunity to withdraw their child from any instruction or presentations regarding sexuality in courses other than formal sex education curricula;
  • Learn about the nature and purpose of clubs and activities;
  • Be advised of their parental rights and responsibilities under the laws of the state, including being advised of:
Ø  The right to opt in to a sex education curriculum if one is provided by the school district;
Ø  Open enrollment;
Ø  The right to opt out of specific assignments;
Ø  The right to opt out of immunizations;
Ø  Promotion requirements;
Ø  Graduation requirements;
Ø  The right to opt out of instruction on AIDS;
Ø  The right to review test results;
Ø  The child’s right to participate in gifted programs;
Ø  The right to access instructional materials;
Ø  The right to receive a school report card;
Ø  Attendance requirements;
Ø  The right to review courses of study and textbooks;
Ø  The right of the child to be excused from school attendance for religious purposes;
Ø  Policies related to parental involvement;
Ø  The right to seek membership on school councils;
Ø  The right to participate in a parental satisfaction survey;
Ø  Information about the student accountability information system (SAIS);
Ø  The right to access the failing schools tutoring fund.

The law provides that the governing board may also include the following components, although it is not required to do so:
  • Inform parents of district's parental involvement policy;
  • Inform parents of their rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act  (“FERPA”) relating to access to children's education records;
  • Inform parents of their right to inspect the school district policies and curriculum;
  • Encourage the development of parenting skills;
  • Communicate to parents techniques designed to assist the child's learning experience in the home;
  • Encourage access to community and support services for children and families;
  • Promote communication between the school and parents concerning school programs and academic progress;
  • Identify opportunities for parents to participate in and support classroom instruction;
  • Support and train parents as shared decision makers and encourage parental membership on school councils;
  • Recognize diversity of parents and the develop guidelines that promote widespread parental participation and involvement;
  • Develop preparation programs and specialized courses for certificated employees and administrators that promote parental involvement;
  • Develop strategies and programmatic structures at schools to encourage and enable parents to participate actively in their child's education;
  • Provide parents information in an electronic form.
The law further provides that:

A school principal or school district superintendent has ten (10) days to respond to a parent’s written request for information about the school district’s policies relating to the parent bill of rights.  The principal or superintendent must provide the information that was requested or a written explanation of the reasons for the denial of the requested information. If the request for information is denied, or the parent does not receive the requested information within fifteen (15) days after submitting the request for information, the parent may submit a written request for the information to the school district governing board, which shall formally consider the request at the next scheduled public meeting of the governing board if the request can be properly noticed on the agenda. If the request cannot be properly noticed on the agenda, the governing board shall formally consider the request at the next subsequent public meeting of the governing board.

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