Real California Parent Rights

The 118th Congress recently passed HR 5, “The Parents Bill of Rights,” and then the bill moved to stagnate in the United States Senate. The good news is a majority of HR 5’s parental rights already exist for California parents of a student attending public school.

Parent rights can be separated into reactive and proactive actions. Media clickbait focuses on parents reacting to situations involving their child when it involves shouting and anger. Most parental education rights are proactive starting each year when parents are informed of conduct, dress codes, and grading procedures when they provide schools with emergency information.

For decades, opportunities to meet with their child’s teacher at least twice yearly officially occur during the back-to-school night and fall conferences. Teachers provide multiple ways for parents and students to contact them through email, telephone calls, apps, and scheduled meetings.

Parents receive quarterly report cards reflecting if their child is at grade level for reading and can monitor daily attendance and homework through AERIES.

California guardians/parents can review all curriculum textbook material for a student’s class 30 days before school board approval or upon request to the student’s principal. Parents may remove their child from a particular lesson; however, the child is responsible for the lesson content on future assessments and may not be excused the entire class day.

Parents may review any film or online lesson plan before class instruction. Still, as a parent who sat through the “understanding your body” health films, it is 2 hours of your life you never get back. Public access to all grade-level California State Standards is on the California Department of Education website.

Parents can participate in annual Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) meetings making sure the LCAP aligns with the district’s budget revenue allocations. All parents, including nonvoting members, may attend school site council meetings to read the yearly school plans for student achievement.

Through these groups and surveys, parents can disclose additional knowledge they think the district should offer, like financial literacy, social media safety, academic services like tutoring, career and college exposure, internships, and health support through wellness centers and meal assistance.

Focus groups and LCAP meetings allow parents to tell a district what is working and what needs to change. Guardians can join PTA, English Language Advisory Committees (ELAC), and Foundations to get more involved.

Parents can comment during attending public school board meetings while monitoring district budgets and new or discontinued curricula and programs. Director of Fiscal Services, Mr. Rami Bashara, presented the second interim report at the March 14 FJUHSD board meeting informing the trustees and the audience that the district is in good standing with over $240 million in expected revenues this year, averaging around $15,800 per student, including one-time state and federal money allocations.

Mr. Bashara stated the district is watching declining enrollment numbers, increased low-income student populations, and inflated operational costs. Still, the district’s financial status aligns with the LCAP reflecting a favorable fiscal position.

California student privacy laws exist to protect children from exploitation and harm. However, some complicated situations require discretion and caution to protect a student’s privacy and cause other parents to be unaware of a student attending their local school experiencing health or family issues.

School administration and teachers are called to act as guardians while students attend school activities, but parents are informed about scheduled events through announcements and permission slips. In cases of emergency, or if the danger originates from the home, then school becomes a designated community resource for students to access help.

Out of all the redundancy listed in HR 5, two new services listed should be part of parental and student rights going forward. First, the ability to conduct parent conferences in person or by video conferencing makes it much easier for guardians to attend teacher conferences.

Second, stipulating all students nationwide to have broadband access is a real game changer. The lack of universal broadband access makes even parts of Fullerton an internet wasteland which incentivized the FJUHSD to continue providing hotspots for students living in these areas.

California parents already have numerous rights in public school settings. However, engaging in proactive parental rights is an ongoing commitment of time and effort throughout the 13 or 14 years a child spends from T-K to graduation.

While not as dramatic as reactive parental engagement, proactive activities often add value to a child’s success and welfare since it is done early, often, and consistently.