Back to School: Know Your Rights
Many schools across Texas are heading back to school (in person or online) this week, and it’s important for students and parents to know their rights. As a parent, you may be concerned with schools reopening, whether you should homeschool your child, and what your child will be learning in the classroom. As a student, you may be wondering if you can pray, lead a religious club, or even say “Merry Christmas” at school. Texas Values is here as a resource to guide you through the school year and its challenges as it relates to parental rights, schooling options, and curriculum.
School choice is becoming even more necessary in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many public schools have succumbed to political pressure in choosing not to reopen or refusing in person instruction even though top education officials have acknowledged the value of in person instruction. Schools are now planning to host school online or have chosen to start school later in the calendar year. There are several things you should know:
- State government officials have said that schools have the choice to reopen.
- Attorney General Ken Paxton has specifically stated that no local government may impose a blanket ban that prevents a private religious school from opening. See letter.
Many parents are making the choice to homeschool their children this school year.
- Parents have the right to withdraw their children from public schools and choose to homeschool them instead.
- Texas Values offers resources to help you understand your rights when withdrawing your child from public school.
Religious Liberty Rights for Students
In addition to a reasonable expectation of privacy, students have numerous freedoms protected by laws such as the Texas Schoolchildren’s Religious Liberty Act and the Merry Christmas Law (both of which Texas Values team members helped to pass through the legislature).
Students have the right to:
- Engage in student-led prayer;
- Have student led Christian clubs;
- Hold student led bible studies on campus;
- Express their Christian values in class;
- Share their faith with other students; and
- Acknowledge Christian holidays.
U.S. Supreme Court precedent upholds the student’s right to religious freedom at school. If you as a student or a student’s parent face an infringement on any of the rights listed above, please contact Texas Values at (512) 478-2220 or email [email protected].
Parents have the right to know what their child is learning and should take every opportunity to know who is teaching their children. Parents should be aware of the following:
- Parents have the right to review sex education curriculum and the right to opt their child out of sex education.
- Parents should be aware that any subject in school can be an opportunity for LGBTQ political ideology to be taught. See this letter from Family Research Council.
- Many school districts are planning to adopt so-called “cultural competence plans” that pressure students to remain silent about their Christian beliefs for fear of punishment encoded in the student handbook.
- Thanks to President Trump rescinding an executive order, your school is no longer forced by the federal government to let boys into girls’ private facilities, and vice versa, local policy however may be different.