Parental Rights in Public School: Not So Fast

There has been a huge grassroots push to Op-Out from the new assessments given at schools all across America. Mostly concerned mothers (another topic in and in-itself) have come together as a new form of militia in order to “starve the test” of valid data points. I whole heartily support their effort and do all I can on the podcast and social media to help. However, I believe the only way to truly have a say in what your children are being taught and method of assessment your children are being exposed to is to withdraw our children from any education program that is connected with the Common Core apparatus. Yes this means from public school and in many cases, from private school too.

Why do I say this?  Because the federal courts have ruled many times that as parents we abdicate our parental rights when we send our children to public school. Before you start calling me a right wing extremist or fundamentalist, hear me out, or should I say, hear what the courts have already forced upon you.

The First Circuit ruled, in Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions, Inc.,1 parents do not have a “fundamental constitutional right to dictate the curriculum [or assessments] at the public school to which they have chosen to send their children.”2 Did you catch that?  The court ruled you voluntarily abdicate your rights when you willingly send your children to the public school. The court said you do not have to send your kids to public school, therefore, if you do, you do so willingly, and thus give up your parental rights in determining what your children is taught and how they are assessed and by what instrument.

The court clearly stated the government does not have the right to tell parents where to send their children for education, or to tell them what to teach if they teach at home, but the Court did declare parents cannot tell public schools, “You can’t teach my child subjects that are morally offensive to me.”3  The justification they cite also demonstrates what is wrong with our current governmental philosophy. They claim citizens do not have the right to tell their government what to do. That’s right, the government is not there to serve us, but we are to serve and obey the government.

The Court  went on to say:

If all parents had a fundamental constitutional right to dictate individually what the schools teach [or assess] their children, the schools would be forced to cater a curriculum for each student whose parents had genuine moral disagreements with the school’s choice of subject matter. We cannot see that the Constitution imposes such a burden on state educational systems.4

Well justices, I do not see where the government has the right to create a state education system, but I digress.

This hasn’t happened in just one circuit. The Ninth Circuit have been stripping parental rights away for years so the following example probably won’t surprise anyone, but it should alarm you nonetheless. The Court does grant “There can be no doubt that the Due Process Clause does protect the parents’ right to control their children’s upbringing. That right was recognized in two leading Supreme Court cases, Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 43 S.Ct. 625, 67 L.Ed. 1042 (1923), and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070 (1925).”5

But, citing the Brown case, the Ninth Circuit upholds the idea parents do not have the “right to restrict the flow of information in the public schools.”6 Using the the Fields question, the Ninth Circuit wrote the right of the parents:

to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex in accordance with their personal and religious values and beliefs’-the right to privacy here asserted-does not entitle them to prohibit public schools from providing students with information that the schools deem to be educationally appropriate.7

Who is deciding what is educationally appropriate anyway?  Not mom or dad that is for sure.

Michael Farris8 asks, “Do parents and children who have sincere religious objections to public school curriculum have the right to alternative instruction for the objectionable material?”9 He reminds us the answer given by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was clear: “Parents have no such right. Once a child has been submitted to the public schools for his education, parents lose all ability to control the course of instruction.”10 The Court went so far as to say there was no “burden” on religious freedom or parents’ rights when the schools forced children to read religiously offensive books as a condition of attending public schools.

Many parents, rightfully so, from a biblical Christian perspective, have turned to homeschooling. I do not think it is too much of a stretch to suggest most homeschoolers believe they are relatively safe from the effects of the courts and the radical changes coming from the public education reformers. But, I warn, this is no time for good-natured ignorance!

For example, the 2002 decision of a Texas federal district court in Barrow v. Greenville Independent School District shows how close the courts came to invading the freedom of homeschoolers.

Farris explains:

In Barrow, a public school teacher sought a promotion to the rank of assistant principal. She was denied this promotion solely because her children were enrolled in a Christian school. The federal court held that neither her religious freedom nor her parental rights were at stake. Public employees who are denied promotion because they refuse to participate in government education for their own children are being given a choice of losing a job or losing a constitutional right to control the education of their children.11

Farris warns his readers “We are on a very dangerous path. Unless parents’ rights are treated on a par with other fundamental rights, the government will continue to demand more and more authority over our children. It is time to put parents’ rights into the text of the United States Constitution.”12

Clearly as parents, we have lost our rights in the public schools, and I am not suggesting we give up the fight.  We must fight the battle on any front as it presents itself. If nothing else we must force the other side to fight an insurgency. At the same time, it is time to withdraw our children from a system that sees it their job to decide what is best spiritual, morally, and academically for our children.

Show 12 footnotes

  1. Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions, Inc., 68 F.3d 525 (1st Cir.1995), retrieved on August 22, 2014 from
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5. Fields at.el. v. Palmdale School District, at. el., 427 F.3d. (9tht Cir.2006) retrieved on August 22, 2014 from
  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.
  8. President of and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
  9. Farris, Michael. P. (n.d.). “A Dangerous Path: Has America Abandoned Parental Rights?” Parent Rights.Org. Reprinted from The Home School Court Report (vol. XXII, no. 4). retrieved on August 22, 2014 from
  10. Mozert v. Hawkins County Public Schools (1987), cited in Farris, Michael. P. (n.d.). “A Dangerous Path: Has America Abandoned Parental Rights?” Parent Rights.Org. Reprinted from The Home School Court Report (vol. XXII, no. 4). retrieved on August 22, 2014 from
  11. Farris, Michael. P. (n.d.). “A Dangerous Path: Has America Abandoned Parental Rights?” Parent Rights.Org. Reprinted from The Home School Court Report (vol. XXII, no. 4). retrieved on August 22, 2014 from
  12. ibid.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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  • historyteach

    Any parent can get themselves elected to their local school board and thereby effect changes in the school’s curriculum. Most school boards are hungry for parental involvement. Do NOT separate yourself from you school; it is precisely that lack of parental involvement that has caused the government to get such control in the first place! I’m afraid this author has it completely backwards. 🙁

    • I agree 100% that parents should not disengage from the public square. But as you can see from these three circuit court decisions parents do not have control of the schools. Even of there were enough parents to change the curriculum and assessments, the courts will step in and prohibit the changes parents would want. For example, the majority of parents did not want the Bible remove from school, but the courts removed it anyway.

  • Ann Miller BCCEO

    If the courts’ justification for relieving parents of power over their children’s education is the choice of parents to enroll in public school, then the flip side of that must also be justified: since all citizens are required to support the public school system through taxation, then all citizens have the constitutional right to determine what and how students are taught in the public schools. The entire argument is ridiculous of course, but if they choose to go that path, they must answer to this conundrum.

    • I agree Ann. But as the court so often does or lacks to do….takes their decision to their logical conclusions.

  • Carolyn

    True, we as parents cannot dictate which curriculum and assessments the schools use, but we certainly have the right to not allow our children to participate, especially with regard to assessments. The schools’ responsibility is to administer the curriculum and assessments and to make sure each student has the opportunity to participate. That’s it. Parents have the right to say no on behalf of their children.

    • I wished you were correct Carolyn, but based upon what the courts have written, I do not think that is the case. This is based upon the the courts own words.

  • Scott Placek

    I think that this article accurately states the rulings found in several cases, but it overstates the conclusion it draws. This is why I continually tell people that a lawsuit against their state assessment test as violative of parental rights will fail. What none of those cases address, and the position opt out parents must be willing to take, is whether a school can force the assessment (or any curriculum) when a parent says “we recognize the state’s ability to fashion it’s curriculum and assessment system, but we instruct our child not to participate and accept the consequences of this non-participation”. No court has ever sanctioned compelling the child to directly contravene a parental instruction. I do agree that much of what we are doing, by necessity, is guerrilla tactics. After opting out we make them follow GPC procedures. We decline AI in their cookie cutter approaches. We develop tactics to overcome truancy threats. Basically we make the school realize that they can’t intimidate us into subjecting our kids to their data collection schemes.

    • Perhaps no court has ever sanctioned compelling the child to directly contravene a parental instruction, but how much longer before they do? I believe they have if not directly by indirectly by teaching values that is contrary to that of the parents.

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