Colorado ‘Parents Bill of Rights’ Passes Republican Senate

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A bill known as the “Parents Bill of Rights” sponsored by Colorado Senator Tim Neville was moved forward this week by Colorado Senate Republicans in hopes it will provide protection for parents against state interventions in “broad areas of daily life, such as education and health care.”

Some see the bill, SB77, as a way to dilute government and public safety policies like immunization regulations. There are parents nationwide who have questioned immunizations, which has caused outbreaks of diseases like measles, that heretofore had been all but obliterated in the US for years. Tessa Cheek, reporting for The Colorado Independent, writes that the bill speaks to notification and decision-making regarding child vaccination, general medical care, school curricula, and extracurricular youth activities.

The editorial board for The Denver Post called the bill “more manifesto than legislation.” Social workers are worried that requiring child abuse workers to report alleged assaults to parents may mean they are tipping their hats to the perpetrators themselves. Mental health groups are concerned about where a child will turn when they are having trouble at home. Already the state with the lowest percentage of vaccinated children, Colorado’s immunization avoidance could be exacerbated by the measure, and advocates for gay-rights are worried that the bill will make it more difficult for kids who are growing up in unsupportive families.

Supporters counter that school actions, like a survey that is administered in school asking about students’ sexual behavior and drug use, may violate child privacy and should require parents’ consent before their children take the test. Also, they point to the fact that there were hours of supportive testimonies from the anti-vaccination community. Supporters add that strengthening the family unit is important, and fears about the bill’s wide-ranging negative impact are being overblown.

“Some folks kinda suggested that perhaps I was crazy to put my name on the bill,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango. “It’s not that I was confused or didn’t realize what I was signing onto. I absolutely support the bill and here’s why… principally transparency, an effort to get more information to parents than they’re currently able to access and, secondly, increased accountability for parental responsibility.”

Roberts continued by pointing out that sexual assault reporting is already mandatory from 37 separate professions. Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) stated, however, that parent-child relationships cannot be regulated. Making the non-reporting of a child abuse a misdemeanor and having to receive consent before any mental or physical health care can be administered is her gravest concern. Democrats were successful in pushing for the adoption of an amendment that removed the criminal penalties for professionals who refer abused kids for counseling without parental consent.

CBS Denver reports the bill includes: the right for parents to exempt their children from any learning material or activity; limiting schools from providing non-emergency care without a parent’s permission; the right to inform parents that they do not have to vaccinate their children. The measure faces one more vote before going to the Democratic House, where it will most likely die. Democrats believe there should be more avenues to intervene for abused children, not fewer.

Senate Democratic Leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora said the bill was tantamount to “criminalization of health care and the micro-direction from every parent in the state of Colorado on what is and isn’t exactly in their curriculum, or whether or not folks get vaccinated.”