On Wednesday morning Maine’s Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on LD 1953, a bill presented by Rep. Jennifer Poirier (R-Skowhegan) which would establish a “Parental Bill of Rights” in the Constitution of Maine.
Rep. Poirier’s proposed legislation seeks to ensure that parents have control over the upbringing and education of their children.
The rights outlined in the bill include the right of parents to inspect and object to instructional materials used in the classroom, opt their children out of health and sex education and to be notified of any medical treatment or counseling their child receives in school.
LD 1953 would also require parents, teachers, and administrators to work together to develop policies that encourage parental involvement in all aspects of the public school system.
“This is about parents and their right to have control over the upbringing and education of their children,” said Rep. Poirier in a statement Tuesday.
“My bill is designed to give Maine voters the right to have a public discussion on the issue of whether or not parents or the state should have primacy in shaping the upbringing, development, and education of our children,” Poirier said.
During Wednesday’s hearing the Committee heard an emotional testimony in support of LD 1953 from Amber Lavigne, a Maine mother whose daughter was provided with a chest binder and gender counseling at a Damariscotta public school without her knowledge.
The Committee also heard testimony in opposition to LD 1953 from civil rights lawyer Mary Bonauto of GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAAD) .
Bonauto claimed in her testimony that parents are already able to exercise their right to choose between public, charter and private schools to address their concerns in their children’s education.
Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) pressed Bonauto, asking her if school choice constituted “true parental rights” after the curtailing of charter schools in Maine, following up with whether parents have a fair fight in going against what Andrews called the “government school monopoly.”
Bonauto apologized, saying she did not know a lot about charter schools, but that homeschooling and attending school board meetings is an option to parents who want to exercise their right to control their children’s education.
The debate over Rep. Poirier’s LD 1953 will continue in a work session next week held by the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.