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The Conflict Over Parents' Rights

Policy Brief - Jan 16, 2024

Author(s) - Vivian Hamilton, William & Mary Law School

A vocal minority of parents has, over the past couple years, invoked the idea of "parents rights" to demand curricular and policy changes that affect not only their own children, but all children within reach of those changes. These parents have, for example, sought to alter history curricula on slavery and race, to dictate how (and whether) schools teach about sexual orientation and gender identity, to remove books in school library collections, and to set school policies relating to transgender students. Interestingly, the most vocal parents taking part in campaigns for parents’ rights tend to see themselves as standing against the state and its schools, instead of standing inside a democratic community that strives for inclusive participation, informed inquiry, and respectful deliberation among the members of the community. In a new NEPC policy brief, The Conflict Over Parents' Rights, Professor Vivian Hamilton of William & Mary Law School details the politicization of parents’ rights and specific rights and responsibilities of various stakeholders, and she explains how competing rights of parents and schools can be reasonably aligned in practice.