The Arizona Mirror reports, Bill allowing teachers to be sued for ‘usurping’ parental rights clears Senate:

A bill to allow parents to sue Arizona teachers for “usurping the fundamental right” of a parent in raising their children won approval from state Senate Republicans on Monday and is one vote away from Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

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Supporters of the bill said it was necessary to subject teachers to lawsuits in order to bring transparency to schools, which they said have been asking “inappropriate questions” of students. The main impetus for the legislation were student surveys sent out by schools — often aimed at identifying students struggling with mental health during the pandemic — that made headlines in a number of states and locally.

House Bill 2161 by Rep. Steve Kaiser, R-Phoenix, began its legislative life as a more controversial bill that would have forced teachers to tell parents everything a student tells them — including outing them if a student confides in a teacher that they are LGBTQ.

The bill was eventually amended to remove that language. Kaiser insisted that the bill was never meant as “an attack” on the LGBTQ community [he is lying], even though it specifically said teachers would have to disclose information about a student’s “purported gender identity” or a request to transition to a gender other than the “student’s biological sex.” It was also drafted by two historically anti-LGBTQ groups

The bill in its current form prohibits a school, political subdivision or government from “usurping the fundamental right” of a parent in raising their children, allows a parent to bring a civil suit against any government entity or official that violates the Parents’ Bill of Rights in Arizona law, gives parents the rights to all written or electronic records from a school about their child — including a students counseling records — and requires schools to notify parents before a survey is conducted of students, among other changes.

“I am a hard ‘no’ on this bill,” Sen. Christine Marsh, a Phoenix Democrat and the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, said when explaining her vote on the floor Monday afternoon. She added that the vague wording of “usurping the fundamental right” in the bill will likely lead to many parents filing lawsuits. [It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.]

Anything could potentially qualify for it so we might have a whole bunch of teachers going to court for this,” she said.

Did I mention that there is a massive teacher shortage in Arizona largely due to the lack of respect for teachers and a lack of teacher pay from our lawless Republican legislature? Survey highlights ongoing teacher shortage for Arizona schools:

An Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association’s annual survey shows at 6,347 positions needed to be filled for the 2021-22 year – further highlighting the ongoing teacher shortage that schools in Arizona face.

As of January, nearly 2,000 teacher positions remained vacant, and 944 teachers have resigned since the start of the school year, according to the survey of 143 school districts and charter schools.

“Today’s release of ASPAA’s survey results are startlingly, but not altogether surprising,” Morgan Dick, public information officer for the Arizona Department of Education, said in an email. “Arizona classrooms have faced a critical teacher shortage for years, and like many issues of inequities and underfunding, COVID-19 has impacted our educator workforce.”

Those concerns were also echoed by her Democratic colleagues during committee hearings on the bill who feared that if passed, the bill could see librarians getting in trouble for recommending books that conflict with a parent’s worldview.

Note: Library study finds ‘challenged’ books soared in 2021:

Accounts of book bannings and attempted book bannings, along with threats against librarians, have soared over the past year and the ALA has included some numbers in its annual State of America’s Libraries Report. The association found 729 challenges — affecting nearly 1,600 books — at public schools and libraries in 2021, more than double 2020′s figures and the highest since the ALA began compiling challenges more than 20 years ago.

Kaiser, the bill’s sponsor, said in committee that the aim is to have parents involved with the child in that process.

Bullshit. This bill started out as a religious right attack on LGBTQ discussions in the classroom, and anti-CRT (which is not even taught in Arizona K-12 schools)  piggybacking on Glenn Youngkin’s so-called “parental rights” campaign in Virginia last year. It is a GQP culture war wedge issue, using children as politcal pawns again.

The bill passed 16-12. Because it was amended in the Senate, it returns to the House of Representatives for a final vote, after which it would go to Ducey for final action.

Paul Waldman writes at the Washington Post, The silent majority against Republicans’ moral panic on schools:

Just as Americans tend to hate Congress but like their own member of Congress, it has long been true that people are much happier about their own children’s schools than about the country’s education system. For instance, a Gallup poll last year found only 42 percent of parents saying they were satisfied with the country’s schools, while 73 percent of them said they were satisfied with the education their own children were getting.

Of course, there are many reasons one might be unhappy with our education system: underfunding, inequality, class sizes, early start hours, to name a few. Or indoctrination on race and sexuality that conflicts with your values: To hear Republicans tell it, fed-up citizens are standing up to leftist teachers and school administrators who have been infecting little ones’ minds with unpatriotic historical revisionism and outré social theories.

But what if most Americans don’t actually believe that? A new poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research suggests a genuine silent majority of people who think what’s happening in schools is just fine — and many of them believe there should be more discussion of race and sexuality.

These are not people we hear much from at the moment, when conservatives have successfully whipped up a very loud moral panic over how race and sex are discussed in schools. But consider some of the poll’s findings:

      • By 58 percent to 12 percent, Americans oppose “prohibiting books about divisive topics from being taught in schools.” (The rest are undecided.)
      • By 53 percent to 21 percent, they oppose “prohibiting teachers from teaching about sex and sexuality in schools.”
      • 71 percent say their local school system is either focusing too little on racism or focusing the right amount, while just 27 percent say it is focusing on it too much.
      • 71 percent also say teachers in their local schools are either discussing issues related to sex and sexuality the right amount or not enough. Only 23 percent say teachers are discussing sex and sexuality too much.

So the radical Republicans in the Arizona legislature are in the extreme fringe minorty in this poll.

But isn’t the anger we’re seeing explode at school board meetings real? Yes, in the sense that a political phenomenon can be simultaneously organic and manufactured. There are some genuinely angry parents, but the school panic has been planned and promoted by powerful right-wing interests and media outlets.

In fact, the person most responsible for creating the critical race theory panic, Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute, recently told an audience that conservatives should work to create “universal public-school distrust.”

That effort has borne significant fruit in the form of state legislation aimed at silencing and intimidating teachers and school officials. But it doesn’t seem to have convinced most Americans that there’s much left-wing indoctrination on race and sex going on in their schools.

Which is why it’s so important that Democrats not just try to change the subject when Republicans promote their moral panics, but actively push back on them. Not only would it be the right thing to do, but it could also be an extremely effective midterm election strategy, both to convince independent voters that giving Republicans more power is dangerous, and to motivate Democratic voters to get to the polls.

Eventually, the right-wing furor over race and sex in schools will fade, as these [manufactured] moral panics always do. But before it does, Republicans might do a great deal of damage to the nation’s schools. If only the other party would stand in their way.

Call your state legislators to oppose HB 2161.




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