Resource reminds parents of their right to review curriculum
Parents are the primary educator of their children, and as such have a right to know what their children are being taught in school. But not all parents know how to exercise this right, which is protected by both federal law and, in Minnesota, by state law too.
A new toolkit from the America First Legal (AFL) Foundation informs parents of their rights under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) and lists exactly what this federal law protects.
Armed with this information, parents will be able to hold the education bureaucracy accountable and bring much-needed transparency to America’s K-12 schools.
Curriculum review — federal
Under the PPRA, parents are allowed to review the curriculum used to instruct their children in public schools. According to the AFL resource:
Parents have the right to inspect “any instructional material” used as part of the education curriculum for the student. The parent who wants to exercise this right must request the material; the school does not have to provide access to the material without being asked first. Parents should demand that schools disclose teacher training materials designed to affect or direct student instruction as “instructional material.”
The toolkit continues by providing sample language parents can use to submit their request.
Under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, 20 U.S.C § 1232h, I request the following:
● Immediate access to all curriculum material, including teacher training materials, used in [specify class]
Curriculum review — state
In Minnesota, state law requires districts to have a procedure in place for a parent to review the content of the instructional materials provided to their child and, if the parent objects to the content, make “reasonable arrangements” with school personnel for alternative instruction.
Further, if the alternative instruction offered by the school board does not meet the concerns of the parent, that parent may provide alternative instruction. No repercussions or academic penalties can be imposed on the student for arranging alternative instruction.
In addition, Minnesota Statute 120B.11 requires school districts to provide for regular community review of the curriculum review process. While this requirement is more broad, it is still a way to ensure parents are involved in overseeing a district’s review and evaluation cycle for each subject area.
The Minnesota Senate recently passed legislation that adjusts Statute 120B.11 by stating curriculum review can happen “immediately upon request” and “without cost.” Added language also requires school districts to notify parents of the curriculum review policy at the beginning of each school year.
Survey data mining
Under PPRA, school districts cannot require students to answer questions that ask about: their political beliefs, mental challenges, sexual behavior or attitudes, religious practices, illegal or demeaning behavior, critical appraisals of people with close family relationships, relationships with lawyers, physicians and ministers, and income level.
These eight areas are considered protected information, and schools are required by federal law to inform parents of any survey or questionnaire that gathers this information and to obtain their prior written consent for their child to participate. (Making it so that students’ parents opt-in rather than opt-out of surveys that deal with protected information under federal law would be a better system.)
If the school wants to distribute or administer a survey created by an outside entity (not the school), the parent has the right to review the survey first, along with any supplemental materials (including teacher’s manuals) that come with the survey. The parent must request this; the school does not have to provide copies without being asked first. Significantly, this applies to all gender and race-related materials.
The Sartell-St. Stephen school district made national headlines last summer over an equity survey they commissioned Equity Alliance Minnesota — an outside entity — to conduct. Families say a student was instructed to hide survey questions from parents, including a question about gender identity.
‘Key advocacy tool’
Parental rights, responsibilities, and values do not get surrendered at the schoolhouse door, AFL reminds parents. “Make the PPRA work for you. … The Protection of Pupils [sic] Rights Amendment is a key advocacy tool to support parents as you hold administrators accountable, and as you protect your children, your community, and our country from a radical agenda contrary to those values you hold dear.”
You can report PPRA violations — within 180 days of the date of the violation — to the U.S. Department of Education here.