State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, has filed Senate Bill 242, expanding current law dealing with parent’s right to school district information about their children.
Burton would expand language in the Education Code to make sure all knowledge about students — not just written records — would be available to parents.
Some parents and LGBTQ advocates have warned that the changes would require teachers and/or faculty to reach out to parents to tell them about a child’s sexual orientation.
“The focus of our bill has nothing to do with issues of sexuality and gender, and everything to do with how parents are treated by the government entities they fund,” Burton says in a statement posted on her website.
She opposed the Fort Worth school district’s initial attempt this year at new safety guidelines that included a controversial transgender policy.
That version had language that would have made it seem OK for faculty to withhold information from parents.
She wants to change the language in the existing law to reflect a more ironclad policy: If parents ask; faculty and teachers must tell.
But the key word is ask. Parents would have to ask teachers for the information. Nothing in the language of the bill requires faculty to be proactive with any knowledge about or from students.
“The bill does not require a school district employee to stop everything they’re doing and reach out to a parent,” Burton wrote.
Nor does it remove the existing child abuse exemption. Texas law allows school faculty to make judgment calls and withhold information if a student’s safety is endangered.
“The bill does, however, strengthen the existing expectation that when a parent contacts a school and inquires about their child, they will receive accurate information and not be punished by local policies that, while well-intended, do more harm than good,” Burton wrote.
Strengthening aside, a worry remains that this well-intended policy change could put LGBTQ students at risk and do more harm than good.
And that worry adds more pressure on school staff. When talking to parents, teachers will have to judge whether the information they reveal will push their student into a major life change or just an awkward conversation at home.
It all boils down to safety.
If the student’s safety isn’t in danger, parents have the right to know what’s going on with their children — even if causes awkwardness at home.
If there is reason to believe a student would be kicked out the house, neglected or in any way their safety is undermined, that would fall under the child abuse exemption and schools should protect the student.
This bill isn’t the disaster that some say it is, but it requires careful examination of its language.