Special Report: The Heated Parental Rights Debate Makes Its Way to Arizona

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

The debate over how much access parents should have to their child’s education, which has taken the nation by storm, has made its way to the Grand Canyon State.

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H.B. 2161 recently passed the Arizona State House and is making its way through the State Senate, which means it soon could be on Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

The bill would grant parents “the right to access and review all written and electronic medical records of the minor child unless otherwise prohibited by law or unless the parent is the subject of an investigation of a crime committed against the minor child and a law enforcement official requests that the information not be released.”

Notably, the bill also says that any state employee, including those in a “political subdivision,” “any other government entity” or institution cannot hold back information “that is relevant to the physical, emotional, or mental health of the parent’s child.”

In other words, parents would be allowed to see their child’s medical records except for in a few exceptional circumstances. It would also give parents permission to sue a school district or charter school if they were to violate the potential law.

PJ Media attended the Senate Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday, where the legislation was debated before ultimately being recommended to pass with an amendment.

Democrats argued that the broad wording of the bill could be problematic, with some raising concerns about how it could impact the personal connections teachers make with students, and for sensitive situations such as a pregnant student who does not want her parents to know.

“Individuation is the process of a person coming into themselves, figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to be in the world independent of their parents,” Sen. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Pima County) said in reference to middle-school students, whom she said her husband teaches.

“Sometimes the people that they admire, the people that they trust, are the people that they go to for a sounding board,” she later added. “They may not be asking how to live their lives, but maybe they’re bouncing their thoughts and ideas in order to have feedback.”

Sen. Paul Boyer (R-Glendale), who added an amendment regarding the accessibility of surveys, responded to criticism of the bill.

“I don’t understand the argument … if there is a child who is in need, like for example … a young lady was to come to me and said she was pregnant. Folks, that actually protects the teachers, because if they say nothing … I mean, they would be held liable. This actually is a way to also protect the teachers,” Boyer said.

Since the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns forced many schools into online learning temporarily, there is a new push led by parents for increased transparency. Many are familiar with the local school board battles about Critical Race Theory, and now the medical records component of public education is being scrutinized. Arizona’s contentious political nature has helped bring these issues to the forefront, and it should serve as a crucial reminder for Americans to keep a close eye on education legislation in their own states.


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