INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is working to keep parents engaged by releasing the Parents Bill of Rights.
He wants parents and caregivers to know their rights when it comes to their child’s education. It comes at a time when there are heated debates surrounding race and social-emotional learning happening in Indiana schools and across the country.
Rokita wants this to be a resource for all Hoosier parents.
“I’m hopeful this guide, gives an idea on how to go into these meetings confidently, respectfully, but most importantly – effectively,” he said.
There are six rights listed in the document.
- To question and address your child’s school officials and school board members at publicly designated meetings with proper notice of the meetings provided
- To question and review the curriculum taught in your child’s school by questioning local school boards and school administrators
- To expect that the academic curriculum taught in your child’s school aligns with Indiana and federal law
- To participate in the selection and approval of academic standards for the State of Indiana
- To obtain educational materials and curriculum taught to your child in the classroom
- To run as a candidate for your local school board
“It also goes through the open door law in Indiana,” Rokita explained, “So you know the kind of notice you have to get for a school board meeting, it shows you how to get on the agenda, and heck, it even shows you how to run for school board if you want.”
There’s also a question and answer portion where it explains academic standards along with critical race theory (CRT) and social-emotional learning (SEL). They’re two topics that have sparked controversy, debate, and protests in cities across the country and in our local communities like Carmel.
In May, parents and students attended a school board meeting to voice concerns and approval of the district’s use of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, as well as teaching SEL.
“I would like to reiterate that Carmel Clay Schools does not teach critical race theory or the 1619 project,” explained CCS School Board President Layla Spanenberg that evening.
In Noblesville, the Superintendent also hosted a series of community meetings to clarify what they call, misinformation.
“Do you teach critical race theory, or do you plan to teach it? No,” said Dr. Beth Niedermeyer of Noblesville Schools. “Our only agenda is to provide a safe place where all students feel valued, respected, heard, and cared for.”
So we asked Rokita, why release this for parents now?
“They’re being engaged because they’re hearing things and they’re concerned about indoctrination happening to their kids. They’re being told that teachers are telling their kids that because of the color of your skin – or your socio-economic class you can never change,” said Rokita, “You’re either an oppressed or an oppressor, and that is wrong.”
Local school districts have said that’s not true.
“This document is very politicized,” said Rachel Burke, the president of the Indiana Parent Teachers Association.
She says this document addresses none of the rights that the Indiana PTA says most parents need to know.
“We have real, serious concerns about water quality and air quality,” explained Burke. “How do I make sure my child’s school is safe? How do I know about neighborhood crime statistics? How do I know my child is receiving an appropriate education from an appropriate educator?”
The Indiana PTA believes the attorney general should not be weighing in on local curricular matters. They say if parents have questions, they need to talk to the teacher first.
“If I don’t get the sort of satisfaction or hearing that I want, then I need to go talk to the administrator or the dean,” said Burke. “After that, there’s usually an assistant or associate superintendent above that person. Then there’s the superintendent and then, there’s the school board. Skipping directly to the school board doesn’t actually solve any problems.”
As for Rokita, he hopes this is a roadmap for parents to exercise their rights.
“I want parents to engage. It’s absolutely needed, it’s your duty and expectation,” said Rokita.
FOX59 reached out to the Indiana Department of Education about this. A spokesperson said the department had not reviewed the document.
Attorney General Todd Rokita says this is just the start. He plans to release future installments, including religious, school choice, and medical rights.
You can read the complete Bill of Rights here.