PHOENIX - State lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to legislation allowing parents to pull their kids out of classes and lessons they find "harmful."
"Harmful" is broadly defined as sexual, violent, profane or vulgar content - a standard one lawmaker said would lead to parents censoring what their youngsters learn.
SB 1453, which now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer, is designed to expand on an existing "Parents' Bill of Rights" which includes the power of parents to direct the education of their child. State law also protects those rights from government infringement unless there is a "compelling governmental interest."
Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, said some of what is in the new legislation might be appropriate, such as requiring public schools to obtain a signed consent form from a parent or guardian before using a video, audio or electronic materials that "may be inappropriate for the age of the student."
"If students are going to be watching an R-rated movie, they should have some sort of parental consent," he said.
But Schapira worried about another provision, which says a parent can request to withdraw a student from any activity, class or program if he or she believes the material or activity is "harmful."
Schapira said the provision on violence makes it too broad.
"It's very subjective," he said, because that could allow a parent to decide a child need not learn about world history and war in particular. The result, he said, is some children won't learn "the truth" of what happened in the past.
"It would create situations where we can have parents out there who are censoring kids from things that I think are very important to learn about our nation's history," he said.
That objection brought an angry reaction from Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa. He said lawmakers have no right to overrule a parent's decision about what is acceptable.
"The bottom line is, there's a fundamental right to parenting," Pearce said. "There's not a fundamental right of anybody else to control my children's education."
The legislation cleared the Senate on a 21-8 vote.
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