Thank you for reaching out about SB 242.
First, you can read the text of the bill here. I encourage you to start there. Unfortunately there is a great deal of misinformation being spread about this proposed bill so it’s important to understand what is already existing state law. Please read the current state laws securing a parent’s right to know, which already include full access to attendance records, test scores, grades, disciplinary records, counseling records, psychological records, applications for admission, health and immunization information, teacher and school counselor evaluations, and reports of behavioral patterns. Let me repeat: a parent already has a right to know this information about their child in the state of Texas.
Also it is important to note that in existing state law any attempt by a school district employee to encourage or coerce a child to withhold information from the child’s parent is grounds for discipline. Many people have expressed dismay about a parent’s right to know anything or that teachers may face discipline for undermining a parent’s right to know, however, these provisions are already the law in Texas.
Having explained those initial points, let me explain the course of events that led to the filing of this bill. It began with the overreach of a school district in my local community that put into place new guidelines for their transgender students. In those guidelines, the school district treated all parents as potentially dangerous and completely marginalized their role in their child’s life. Although the district’s aggressive overreach had to do with policies for transgender students, 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. I would firmly stand against any policy that treated parents as unessential in their child’s life, regardless of what group the policies were intended for. You will not find the words “sexuality” or “gender” anywhere in the proposed bill. You will find, in addition to what is already a parent’s right to know (again, listed above), that we include the child’s general well-being and health, both physical and mental, in our proposed legislation.
It’s also imperative to note that existing law, as well as my proposed bill, have an exception for abuse or neglect, which clearly calls for reporting without the knowledge or consent of the parent.
Beyond that, the bill does not require a school district employee to stop everything they’re doing and reach out to a parent. Again, state law already secures a parent’s right to know on numerous elements of their child’s life and teachers today are not expected, asked, or mandated to stop mid-lesson to reach a parent. Currently, a teacher may decide when and how to proactively reach out to a parent about anything of importance to them, which is how it should work. The proposed bill does absolutely nothing to change this present mechanism for a parent’s right to know. 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.
Many of the extremely sad and dire scenarios being spread by those who peddle in misinformation and stoke the flames of fear are not only incongruous to the proposed bill as written, they are incongruous with existing state law. In short: parents and schools have always been partners in the education and rearing of children, and they have always exchanged information in the best interest of the child. However, myself and others witnessed firsthand a local school in my district attempt to subvert that relationship. Fortunately, local uproar and an Attorney General Opinion upholding the existing laws surrounding a parent’s right to know caused the school district to re-embrace that partnership between its employees and the parents, and the end result was a win for everyone. However, our proposed bill makes sure that such an attempt by a school district does not happen again by streamlining and strengthening those existing protections for parents.
What’s important to understand too is that bill language changes throughout the process and likely will for this piece of legislation as well. That is the normal process all filed bills go through, which ultimately results in a bill that will do best by our children, our schools, and our parents. That’s what the legislative process is all about and I look forward to that process with this proposed bill.
Sen. Konni Burton