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The controversy over ‘parental rights’ in schools is heating up in Texas

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Reading a book after school at her family's home.
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Masks and vaccines for those who are eligible are among the recommendations for schools.

At a recent campaign event, Gov. Greg Abbott announced his “parental bill of rights,” which would amend the Texas Constitution to reinforce parents as the primary decision-makers when it comes to how schools operate and what their children are taught.

Friction has been mounting in response to parents’ disagreement with how school districts are dealing with curriculum about race, history, gender identity and sexual orientation, as well the kind of books that are available in school libraries, and mask-wearing requirements during the pandemic.

Legislation related to “parental rights” in schools has been introduced in U.S. states including Florida and Kentucky, and in Congress.

Do parents have a right to question what is taught in schools? How much power should parents have to influence their child’s education or other school operations?

What are the potential implications of limiting the content or scope of cultural, historical and civics curricula? How are schools and teachers responding?

What legal rights do Texas parents have now related to schools? What about the current system do “parental rights” advocates argue should change, and why?

Is this just the latest development in the classroom-focused culture war? What do politicians hope to gain by pitting parents against schools?

Guests: 

  • Brian Lopez, public education reporter for The Texas Tribune 
  • Anthony Brown, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, the Center for African and African American Studies and the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Paul Tapp, managing attorney for the Association of Texas Professional Educators
  • Brandon Rottinghaus, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Houston and host of the “Party Politics” podcast

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, February 16.

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