The National Pulse

New Fla. Law Lets Parents Challenge Objectionable School Content

This article was originally posted at The Heartland Institute.

A new Florida law empowers residents to contest objectionable public school curriculum materials in open public hearings.

House Bill 989 “authorizes a parent or a county resident to object to the use of a specific instructional material and requires the process provide the parent or resident the opportunity to proffer evidence to the district school board that such material does not meet the state criteria or contains prohibited content, or is otherwise inappropriate or unsuitable for the grade level and age group for which the material is used,” the Florida Department of Education website states.

HB 989 also “requires a district school board to discontinue the use of a material that the board finds inappropriate or unsuitable,” the website further states.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed HB 989 into law in July.

Citizen Watchdog Work

Keith Flaugh is a cofounder and managing director of Florida Citizens’ Alliance (FLCA), a nonprofit organization that helped craft HB 989. FLCA and a coalition of 80 groups across the state presented state legislators with a Florida Curriculum Assessment report during the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions.

The report detailed the findings of citizen watchdog committees in Florida schools who reviewed curricula in eight counties and settled on six major areas of concern: English Language Arts, pornography, reconstructed history, religious and political indoctrination, and Common Core math methodologies. Unacceptable curricular examples included the glorification of teen sex and distorted accounts of America’s founding. One eighth grade history textbook declared anyone can qualify as an American citizen simply by wanting to be one. Another lesson plan taught third graders Thanksgiving is a hurtful holiday, offensive to Native Americans.

Flaugh says HB 989 is meant to continue the momentum of the citizen watchdogs.

“The purpose of the bill is to get the local community to engage,” Flaugh said. “We need to engage the influencers of our children—parents, grandparents, community groups, and religious groups—to get back in the game.”

‘It’s a Step’

Emmett McGroarty, education director for the American Principles Project, says the new law is a partial win for Florida parents.

“It’s not a full empowerment of parents and local control, but it’s a step,” McGroarty said. “The curriculum needs to be aligned with the standards, and the school board can still reject it.”

McGroarty says HB 989 will nonetheless force administrators to consider the potential public reaction to their curriculum choices.

“Having this bill will give decision-makers pause in terms of selection,” McGroarty said. “Power has to be shifted back to parents and local control.”

Cassidy Syftestad

Cassidy Syftestad is a student at Hillsdale College and a writer for the Heartland Institute’s newspaper, School Reform News.