The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children is a fundamental right. The government may not interfere with parental rights unless it demonstrates a compelling state interest of the highest order, is narrowly tailored, and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means. This standard allows for children to be protected from abusive situations, while still ensuring that parents’ rights are not infringed by government officials who may simply believe they know better than a parent.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights recognizes a parent’s right to:
- Direct the education of their child.
- Direct the upbringing of their child.
- Direct the moral or religious training of their child.
- Make healthcare decisions for their child.
- Access and review all medical records relating to their child.
- Provide written permission before a biometric scan is performed on their child.
- Provide written permission before any record of their child’s blood or DNA is created, stored, or shared.
- Provide written permission before any videos or voice recordings are made of their child, with certain exceptions (for example, security or surveillance of school property).
- Be notified promptly if there is suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed against their child.
- Access information about a Department of Social Services involving the parent and their child.
- Send their children to a public schools, charter school, or other state sanctioned education programs, that is free from instruction promoting race and sex based division.
However, parents’ rights are not limited to those enumerated in the statute: unless those rights have been legally waived or legally terminated, parents have inalienable rights that are more comprehensive than those listed in this section. This chapter does not prescribe all rights of parents. Unless otherwise required by law, the rights of parents of minor children shall not be limited or denied.
The statute goes on, any attempt to encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from the child’s parent shall be grounds for discipline of an employee of this state, any political subdivision of this state or any other governmental entity, except for law enforcement personnel.
Parental Rights and Education
Virginia law also protects the right of parents to direct the education of their children. This includes the right to select the type of education the parent deems best for their child, including district, charter, private, homeschool, online or other state-sanctioned education programs. In addition to the parental rights listed in the Parents’ Bill of Rights, Virginia law also spells out these specific rights parents have if their child attends a district or charter school.
In addition to these rights listed above, parents’ have the right to determine the morals, ethics, and worldview of their children. The primary mission of
In a district school, parents have the right to:
- Opt their child out of any learning material or activity that the parent finds harmful to their child. This includes material that questions beliefs or practices related to sex, morality, race or religion.
- Opt their child out of any activity the parent deems objectionable because of sexual content, violent content, racial, or profane or vulgar language.
- Opt their child in to sex education instruction if provided by the school district. Without written parental permission, children cannot participate in sex education.
- Be notified in advance if content discussing sexuality is taught in other classes, such as history or literature, and the right to opt their child out of that instruction.
- Opt their child in to any video, audio, or electronic materials that are inappropriate for the age of the student. This means the school cannot show a rated-R movie to students under 18 years of age without signed, written permission from the child’s parent.
- Opt their child out of instruction on the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
- Opt their child in to race education instruction if provided by the school district. Without written parental permission, children cannot participate in race education.
- Excuse their child from school attendance for religious purposes.
- Be informed about the nature and purpose of extracurricular student clubs and activities.
- Access all instructional materials and review courses of study and textbooks whether purchases or created by school district employees or contractor.
- Refuse to provide information for any student information system that does not relate to the provision of educational services to the student.
In charter schools, parents have the right to:
- Opt their child out of any activity the parent deems objectionable because of sexual content, violent content, race, or profane or vulgar language. The charter school may require parents to waive this requirement as a condition of enrollment if the school provides a complete list of books and materials to be used during the school year.
- Opt their child in to any video, audio, or electronic materials that are inappropriate for the age of the student. This means the school cannot show a rated-R movie to students under 18 years old without signed, written permission from the child’s parent.
- Opt their child in to sex education instruction if provided by the charter school. Without written parental permission, children cannot participate in sex education.
Prohibition Against Teaching Race or Sex-based Divisions.
(A) Virginia public schools, charter schools, or other state-sanctioned education programs, shall not include or promote the following concepts as part of a course of instruction, in a curriculum, instructional program, teacher training, teacher evaluations standards, or allow teachers or other employees of the public schools, charter school, or other state-sanctioned education programs, to use supplemental instructional materials that include or promote the following concepts:
(1) One (1) race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
(2) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex;
(4) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex;
(5) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
(6) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex;
(7) A meritocracy is inherently racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex;
(8) This state or the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist;
(9) Promoting or advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government;
(10) Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people;
(11) Ascribing character traits, values, moral or ethical codes, privileges, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex;
(12) The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups;
(13) All Americans are not created equal and are not endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; or
(14) Governments should deny to any person within the government’s jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.
(B) Notwithstanding subsection (A), this section does not prohibit Virginia public schools, charter school, or other state-sanctioned education programs, from including, as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or instructional program, or from allowing teachers or other employees of Virginia public schools, charter school, or other state-sanctioned education programs, to use supplemental instructional materials that include:
(1) The history of an ethnic group, as described in textbooks and
instructional materials adopted;
(2) The impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history;
(3) The impartial instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic region; or
(4) Historical documents relevant to impartial instruction.
(C) Law should prescribe a penalty for violation of the provisions above.
Parental Rights and Health Care
Parents also have important rights regarding the medical care and treatment of their children under Virginia law. In addition to the health care provisions in the Parents’ Bill of Rights discussed above, Virginia’s parents shall have specific rights in addition to any other rights enumerated in other Virginia law, including:
- Requiring written permission before a mental health screening is performed on a minor in a non-clinical setting (e.g., outside of a doctor’s office or clinic).
- Requiring written permission before any mental health treatment is performed on a minor, unless it is an emergency.
- Requiring written parental consent before a physician or entity performs or seeks to perform a surgical procedure on a minor.
- Requiring parental consent before a pharmacist administers an immunization or vaccine to a minor.
- Requiring written parental consent before a minor donates blood.
- Opting a minor out of immunizations at the beginning of the school year due to parent’s personal beliefs.
- Requiring notarized parental consent before a minor can have an abortion, unless the minor obtains a judicial bypass.
- Requiring parental communication before a do-not-resuscitate order is placed on a minor’s medical chart.
- Requiring written parental consent before a minor for prescription medications for minors, including contraceptives.
- Requiring written parental consent before a minor to seek treatment for a sexually-transmitted disease or for substance abuse.
Parents have the solemn right and responsibility to raise their children according to their own sincerely held convictions. Government must always recognize this right and make every effort to support parents in the choices they make while raising their children. In Virginia, citizens should be aware of the extensive parental rights in state law and their ability to exercise them freely.