A Children’s Bill of Rights is needed to protect those most vulnerable | Opinion

Gov. Ron DeSantis has called the Legislature into special session to augment the so-called Parents’ Bill of Rights. If successful, new laws will strengthen a parent’s right to resist having their child vaccinated, reject protective mask mandates, and object to instructional materials and content the parent finds offensive.

In a perfect world, the proposals make perfect sense. Of course, parents should control their child’s upbringing. But what happens if the parents are wrong? Do we really want whoever shouts the loudest to have the last word?

Recent incidents have shown the tragic results when a parent makes a poor decision. For example, the mother who drove her 17-year-old son across state lines armed with an AK-15 assault rifle to practice vigilante justice. Or the father who took his 9-year-old son to the Houston rap festival, and subsequently fell off dad’s shoulders when the frenzied mob rushed the stage. The boy died Sunday.

We need a Children’s Bill of Rights to protect the vulnerable children who don’t have the kind of parents the Legislature imagines. There are 19,000 children in Florida’s foster care system who can exemplify poor parent decisions. The health of millions of children is put at risk when exercising personal “freedom” trumps sound public health policies.

A Children’s Bill of Rights would also protect society, whose future will depend on educated citizens to use science and research to solve existential problems like climate change and future pandemics. A parent offended by a passage in classic literature, shouldn’t deny the rights of other students to read it.

So, here’s what I propose for the Children’s Bill of Rights:

1. The right to obtain a free public education based on a research-based curriculum, taught by certified teachers who are trained in child development and effective pedagogy, and have proven competence in the subjects they teach.

2. The right to be healthy in school through protection of proven vaccines and protocols to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

3. The right to be safe in school by eliminating guns that students may accidentally fire or use to settle grudges.

Let’s hope the Legislature will remember that parents who demand their freedom, are making decisions that impact other parents’ children as well.

Dr. Sally Butzin has been a classroom teacher, education researcher, and author of several books on teaching and learning. She is the mother of two daughters and has four grandchildren in public schools.


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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: A Children’s Bill of Rights is needed to protect those most vulnerable | Opinion