Two bills not passed called restrictive


Legislation could have placed more control in hands of parents





WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bills that could have placed more restrictions on high school student press freedom failed to become laws during the 104th Congress. Sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.), the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act was left in the judiciary committees of both houses at the end of the session.

Also shelved was a piece of legislation by Grassley and Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) titled the Family Privacy Protection Act. This bill passed the House but never made it from committee to the Senate floor.

The first bill, if enacted, would have given parents more control over schools. But critics have said that the bill could also have made it more difficult for members of the student media to publish materials independently of administrative and parental controls.

The bill required that “no federal, state, or local government, or any official of such a government acting under color of law, shall interfere with or usurp the right of a parent to direct the upbringing of the child….”

The bill would have required any government practice that interferes with parental rights to serve a compelling purpose, and that the practice be narrowly drawn in order to be the least restrictive. This kind of “strict scrutiny” test would have provided a high standard for schools and students to meet in order not to interfere with parental rights.

Critics of the bill, including school administrators, said that this type of legislation would have given parents too much authority over the way their children are taught in schools.

“This creates a right, and imposes a burden on school districts to justify what they’re doing, that’s impossible to meet” said Gwen Gregory, an attorney with the National Association of School Boards. Gregory said that where the student media is concerned, if the bill had passed, the burden of proof that news stories on unpopular or controversial subjects do not violate parental rights would be impossible. Also left in committee was the Family Privacy and Protection Act, sponsored by Grassley and Horn.

This bill would have required schools that receive federal funding to get permission from students’ parents or guardians in order to survey students on certain topics. Parents or guardians would have had to provide a written consent form in order for students to participate in surveys that ask about a number of issues, including “parental political affiliations or beliefs” and “religious affiliations or beliefs.” The sponsors of both bills have said that they plan to reintroduce them in the new Congress in January.


reports, Winter 1996-97