Young parent, old male teacher and little girl in the classroom

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There currently are four bills in the state legislature proposing a parents’ bill of rights. The Senate was the first body to approve its bill in March. Senator Andrew Koenig (R-District 15) is the sponsor of Senate Bill 4 that was approved and is now in the House for consideration. The House has at least three of its own versions of a bill still in progress. While the bill out of the Senate was the first to be approved by a legislative body, it does not mean it is the final bill that will become a law, if the legislature even passes a Parents’ Bill of Rights. The main components of the bill are similar to the other bills and would apply to all public schools, charter schools and virtual schools. Here’s a summary of Senate Bill 4. Read SB4 in its entirety at senate.mo.gov:

Transparency Requirements

• Establishes a Missouri Education Transparency and Accountability Portal: an online database providing access to:

◦ Every school’s curriculum, textbooks, source materials and syllabi in an easy-to-search database accessible to all parents. 

◦ The cost associated with speakers and guests used by a school in its professional development activities. 

◦ Information about School Board Directors.

◦ Materials relating to administrator, teacher and staff professional development and instructional programs offered to schools regarding diversity, equity and inclusion or social and emotional learning with lists by schools showing date of attendance, name and position of district attendee, program name and description.

◦ Programs offered to schools by third-party contractors, the department (of education) shall maintain data and information on the department’s website related to those programs, including the amount paid to the contractor. 

◦ A database of all public schools’ financial transactions related to bonds and the basic salaries that appear on the contracts of all employees.

◦ The school accountability report cards for the past five years will be posted on the portal and on the Department of Education’s website.

Accountability

• If a school knowingly violates any provision of the portal requirements, the school will be subject to a penalty of up to $25,000. If the error is fixed within 30 days, the penalty will be waived. 

Regarding what teachers can teach

• Teachers and school staff are not allowed to teach that individuals of any race, ethnicity, color or national origin are inherently superior or inferior. Or that people should be treated better or worse based on their race, ethnicity or color or that individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color or national origin , bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by others. 

• No school may require a student, teacher or staff member to participate in a training that a reasonable person believes promotes any of the above beliefs. 

• The bill states that it does not prohibit freedom of speech, voluntary attendance in a training session, access to sources of information on the topics listed above for the purpose of research or independent study, discussion of beliefs or concepts described above or the assignment of materials that incorporate such beliefs of concepts for educational purposes, provided that the school expressly makes clear that it does not sponsor, approve or endorse such beliefs or concepts. The bill states it also would not prohibit teachers from discussing current events in a historical context, like African American history, Native American history or women’s history. It also states it would not prohibit the use of curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism, slavery and racial oppression to name a few examples in the bill.

Accountability

• If a parent learns that a teacher of the parent’s student is in violation of this section, then the parent may file a complaint with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). DESE will inform the state board of education and notify the school. The state Board of education will hold a contested case hearing between the parent and the school within 30 days of receiving the complaint. If the state board finds a violation has occurred, the parent will have an amount of money equal to what the state spends on their child each year until the student turns 18-years-old, from the school that the violation occurred. The money can then be used for further education for that student.

• Patriotic and Civics Training for teachers:

In this bill, DESE is tasked with developing a patriotic and civics training program for teachers in order to prepare the teachers to teach the principles of American civics and patriotism. The program shall include the history, qualities and traditions of civic engagement in the United States, teaching of the founding documents of the United States including the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers, among several other items. Subject to appropriation, each teacher that completes the program will receive a one-time bonus of $3000.

Other items of interest

• Regarding electronic devices issued by schools: schools must prohibit students’ access to social media, video sharing sites and inappropriate material on the provided devices.

• Schools will notify parents of any misdemeanor or felony charges filed against a teacher, staff member or guest or visitor to the school, that pertain to student’s safety.