By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) – Adams County State Sen. Doug Mastriano introduced Senate Bill 996 this week to explicitly define parental rights as fundamental rights, a move designed to protect decisions on education, health care, mental health and other issues.
“The liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, care and welfare of the parent’s child is a fundamental right,” according to the legislation, dubbed the Parental Rights Protection Act. “Neither a commonwealth agency nor a non-commonwealth agency may infringe upon the right … without demonstrating that the law or ordinance is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.”
Mastriano contends the bill’s aim is to prevent courts from ruling parents’ rights as “ordinary,” which gives the government more leeway in overriding their authority.
“This statute is needed now more than ever as the constant eroding of parental rights over the past two years,” Mastriano said. “We saw instances where parents were labeled as domestic terrorists simply for advocating for what they felt was best for their child.
“We saw schools shuttered and parents left without in-person learning alternatives,” he said. “SB 996 will provide parents the legal protection they need when overreaching bureaucrats attempt to overrule their voice. When it comes to raising children, parents are better than the government.”
The bill comes as parents in Pennsylvania and other states are confronting local school districts over a variety of issues, including critical race theory, graphic sexual books, sex education curriculum and school mask mandates.
National School Boards Association President Viola Garcia sent a letter to President Joe Biden in September, claiming “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat” from upset parents and imploring the president to deploy federal law enforcement agencies to address what Garcia referred to as “the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
“NSBA specifically solicits the expertise and resources of the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, and its National Threat Assessment Center regarding the level of risk to public schoolchildren, educators, board members, and facilities/campuses,” Garcia wrote. “We also request the assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to intervene against threatening letters and cyberbullying attacks that have been transmitted to students, school board members, district administrators, and other educators.”
Gov. Tom Wolf recently vetoed legislation that would have required schools to post a basic outline of curriculum online, a measure intended to give parents a better look at what their children are learning in school.
Mastriano contends SB 996 “will also codify a parent’s right to access and review all school records related to their child, a right to review all instructional materials used throughout the school year, and the right to opt out their child from certain curriculum that the parent finds to be objectionable or harmful,” he wrote in a legislative memo.
SB 996 was assigned to the Senate State Government Committee when it was introduced on Monday.