Parental rights advance in Alabama and Idaho

ByWashington Examiner

State by state, parental rights and parental choice are being vindicated and promoted, even as the federal government and some bad judges work to erode the most instinctive, deepest, and profound of human relationships.

In the past few weeks, Alabama and Idaho joined the pro-parent counterrevolution. Alabama on March 7 became the 12th state to adopt a universally accessible school choice program. (Another 16 states have at last limited private school choice options.) On March 21, Gov. Brad Little (R-ID) signed a new law ensuring parents’ rights to their own minor children’s medical records and approving all medical services for those children. The usual exceptions are provided for genuine emergencies or resulting from court orders, the latter usually due to abuse or neglect. The law also gives Idaho parents a private right of legal action against whoever denies this parental authority.

On the education front, this publication has editorialized numerous times in favor of school choice, calling it “one of the worthiest sociopolitical efforts of the past few decades.” Almost everywhere choice systems are adopted, they are overwhelmingly popular with parents, and they tend to result in higher test scores and better character development of students. Yet Alabama’s legislature, even many of whose Republicans have been beholden to the state education union, last year balked at major school-choice expansion. This year, though, Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) made it a priority, and legislators redesigned the proposal from an education savings account to a $7,000 refundable tax credit. All students in the program must continue to take standardized tests.

“Today’s world is all about customization, flexibility, and choices,” said Republican state Rep. Danny Garrett, the bill’s sponsor, after both legislative chambers passed the plan overwhelmingly. In a state whose schools for the last decade consistently have ranked among the six or seven worst in the nation, it was a moral outrage that parents did not enjoy the choice to move their children away from failing educational districts. Henceforth, they will.

As for the Idaho law, it comes amid and in salutary response against national left-wing movements to deny parental rights in education, healthcare, and other realms. Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court again showed an unwillingness to confront these movements as it refused to consider an appeal of a case in which the Indiana Department of Child Services took custody of a teenage son self-identifying as a girl after the boy’s devout Catholic parents wouldn’t call him by female pronouns. And nationwide, some 6,000 public schools have policies keeping children’s gender status secret from their parents, and Biden administration rulemaking and court interventions consistently have sided against parents’ rights to know about their own children’s mental and physical conditions.

The subjugation of parental authority runs afoul of Supreme Court precedent, now a full century old, that has not been overruled. In the 1923 case of Meyer v. Nebraska, the court decided that liberties guaranteed by the 14th Amendment include the right “to establish a home and bring up children” and that “the right of parents” to engage instructors for their children is profound and “within the liberty [protected by] the amendment.” These parental rights, ruled the justices, are among “those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

It is a mystery why the Supreme Court has been unwilling to take up cases, in new, modern contexts, that involve these essential parental rights. Yet unless court orders have ascertained that abuse or neglect is involved, those rights should be inviolable. Except in unusual circumstances, the government has no business interposing itself between parents and their children.

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Individual states, though, do have good reason to ensure by statute that these familial relationships remain paramount. And, in the education realm, to provide opportunities for parents to find the schools best suited for their children. As the latest two entries in the pro-parents movement, Alabama and Idaho provide good examples for other states to follow.

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