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Parents' Bill of Rights sent to Florida House floor

'We don't think parents should have to be an attorney to understand what their rights are," Patti Sullivan says
Posted at 8:24 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 08:24:14-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — GOP lawmakers are again trying to give Florida parents a "Bill of Rights."

A House panel sent the idea, HB 241, to the floor Wednesday afternoon following a near party-line vote.

Parent and activist Patti Sullivan, who heads Parental Rights Florida, said she felt this is the year moms and dads would see success.

"We don't think parents should have to be an attorney to understand what their rights are," she said. "All these current laws would come under one umbrella. It makes it clear for parents, and it makes it clear for government agencies and other entities as well."

Patti Sullivan, Parental Rights Florida
Patti Sullivan with Parental Rights Florida is optimistic that the bill will be passed this legislative season.

The legislation aims to provide clarity and control over a child's education, mental health and health care. Parents could more easily opt kids out of medical procedures like vaccinations or object to courses like sex ed.

"We really truly know what's best for them and their future," Sullivan said.

Though the bill died in the Senate last year, it's gaining traction there this time around.

House Sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, attributed the change to a better understanding of the bill.

"Sometimes good bills take a little while to make it through the process and educate members about what's really in the bill and what it may do," Grall said.

State Rep. Erin Grall
State Rep. Erin Grall believes there is more support for the bill this year.

LGBTQ groups have taken issue with the legislation. They worry its broad language may lead to schools disclosing too much personal information to parents.

Jon Maurer with Equality Florida said a gay or transgender student could incidentally be outed.

"And not just something that they want to keep confidential but something that might be putting them in danger if it's disclosed," Maurer said. "We know that not everyone comes from supportive households."

Jon Maurer, Equality Florida
Jon Maurer with Equality Florida worries the bill may lead to schools disclosing too much personal information to parents.

It was enough of a concern to keep several Democrats from voting in favor.

Rep. Susan Valdés, D-Tampa, felt children lacking supportive families needed consideration.

"I can't support your bill because I'm thinking about all --- all of the children," Valdés said. "Not just those that have good parents."

While House members likely have enough votes to approve the bill once more, Senate support remains a question mark. Its version has cleared two committees and is on its final. Supporters believe the policy has more momentum than last year.

Both chambers will need to pass the same version of the bill before it can reach the governor's desk.