"This is What Democracy Looks Like!"
Editor's Note: On the local level--especially for school boards all over the U.S.-- "dark money" and even foreign governments exert an outsized influence. Loud voices and blocked traffic don't necessarily indicate a groundswell of popular opinion. This post by NK Town Dems member Kahlia Shmerer demonstrates an authentic response to a questionable initiative. Following the links will show you more about how representative democracy works here in RI.
On Thursday, February 10, the "Parents Bill of Rights Act," authored by Rep. Patricia Morgan (R), was presented to the RI House Judiciary Committee. In vehement opposition to this bill, I submitted the following written testimony:
I am writing to urge you to reject H7138, also known as the “Parents Bill of Rights Act.” On the surface, a “parents bill of rights” sounds innocuous and useful. However, underneath the surface you will find the opposite. This bill is a summation of the ideals held by the anti-CRT, anti-gender theory crowd and as such has garnered their support. It blurs the separation of church and state; it diminishes students’ autonomy and infringes on their right to education, and frankly is rife with anti-LGBTQ and racist sentiments. This bill’s intention is that of dismantling the foundation of public schools by shifting the control of education into the hands of parents. Public schools don’t operate that way for a reason. Leaving education up to parents’ personal and subjective views on things like “morality, sex, and religion” is not conducive to providing a broad, inclusive education. Public schools have to serve the whole community, not specific people who feel their morals are at a better place than others. This bill would also remove some protections that are currently afforded to students, particularly LGBTQ students who could be outed against their will. A student should be able to confide in their peers or the trusted adults in school without fear that their personal thoughts and feelings might be disclosed to a potentially hostile family member. That is not only an infringement on students’ privacy, but it also puts some students in legitimate danger. This parents bill of rights would empower parents, and that sounds nice, but that empowerment would come at the cost of disempowering children – their own children and other people’s children. Youth are the ones we should be empowering. While the children referred to in this bill are largely minors, they are still autonomous beings with rights. They have the right to safe schools, the right to education, the right to learn. They have the right to attend the classes that have been specifically curated for them. For many, school is the safe space in their lives and home is not. Even for those whose homes are a safe and accepting place, school is still the space where they can learn and explore away from the watchful parent eye. School is where they learn to think critically, think for themselves, make their own connections and informed conclusions about the world around them. Education is a student’s right, and school is where that right comes to life. Schools cannot operate based on parents’ subjective beliefs. They must operate for everyone. Please do not support this bill.
Kahlia Shmerer (she/her)
For more testimony about H7138, click here and scroll down to Feb. 10. 198 letters were posted that day; keep "arrowing through," 30 at a time, to see them all.
See what bills are coming up on the Legislative Committee Calendar (VIEW list in PDF or HTML).
To submit your own testimony, email HouseJudiciary@rilegislature.gov (It's a good idea to cc all members of the committee and the clerk) Indicate your name, bill number, and viewpoint (for/against/neither) at top of message. DEADLINE: (3) hours prior to the posted meeting time. Testimony received after deadline will be posted to the website as soon as possible.