Republicans at the State House on Tuesday urged their colleagues to support a series of bills that would impose transparency requirements on Maine’s public schools and protect parental rights in education.
Republican leads on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee along with Assistant Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim (R-Oxford) said Tuesday during a press conference in Augusta that the bills they have submitted would protect parents’ rights, protect the well-being of students, and provide more transparency for voters and taxpayers.
Sen. James Libby (R-Cumberland) said parental inclusion in conversations that impact children is one of the most pressing matters in the state. He criticized efforts from school officials and Democratic lawmakers to withhold information from parents that impacts the physical and mental health of their children.
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Libby mentioned Chapter 117 in particular, a controversial rule recently approved by the Education Committee that would expand the role of social workers in Maine’s public schools.
“Student has a chronic drug problem — What is being said to Republicans and Maine citizens is that that student will be able to keep that problem confidential,” said Libby.
“This whole idea that we’re not going to include parents is distressing, it’s disturbing, and it’s something we have to stand up to,” said Libby.
Libby and Keim both pointed to the case of Amber Lavigne, a Newcastle mom who discovered that the Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta secretly provided her 13-year-old daughter with a breast binder and sex-change counseling.
Lavigne has filed a lawsuit against that school district for violating her constitutional rights.
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“We cannot have school systems setting up rules that would allow the school to circumvent parents, like what’s happening in the Great Salt Bay School. That type of medical treatment should not be available to students without parents knowing,” said Keim.
Keim said her bill, LD 1800, would require schools to include parents in medical decisions that affect their children.
Rep. Heidi Sampson (R-Alfred), the Republican lead on the Education Committee, has also sponsored a separate bill, LD 1129, that would impose transparency requirements on Maine’s public schools.
“Parents have a right to request any information being put in front of their children. When they act on the right, they are often shocked and dismayed that important information is often hidden from them,” Sampson said.
She said that parents have often encountered hostility from school officials when they request information from schools.
Under Sampson’s bill, schools would be required to post curricula, reading lists, and other education materials online for parents to inspect. Schools would also be required to document any third-party training teachers receive and share that information online.
“If schools have nothing to hide from the public there should be no objection to increased transparency and parental involvement,” Sampson said.
Here is a short compilation from the briefing: