Parental rights are once again being brought up. Many public school districts across the nation have been criticized and even legally challenged for implementing policies that violate a legal guardian’s right to know crucial information about what their child is being taught in school. This time, Missouri parents are raising concerns about a Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) policy that allows teachers to have private conversations without disclosing the topics discussed to parents.
Policy JFGA states, “There are many situations where school employees will meet with individual students. School counselors meet with students to discuss academics and personal issues, teachers often discuss academic performance with students, and school officials meet with students when investigating disciplinary violations. These conversations are an essential part of the educational process. The district will not honor requests by parents/guardians to be informed prior to these discussions, be present during the discussions or prohibit conversations between a student and staff members.” The last sentence is what has truly alarmed Missouri parents.
This especially drew Andy Wells’ attention. He is a father with 3 children in a school that currently honors this policy. Wells is the Missouri President of an organization called No Left Turn in Education (NLTE), which monitors identity politics in classrooms across the country and gives parents the opportunity to search their area for complaints filed about schools in their area introducing politically biased policies or information into the classroom. Their goals are clearly stated on their website to build an educational future that promotes appreciation of America’s founding principles, and encourages family values while focusing on the importance of individual rights. Like many Missouri parents, Wells found the JFGA inappropriate.
He noted how policies of this nature were implemented in numerous schools when the press started reporting on the Loudoun County parental protests of school boards in Virginia. While many families watched that unfold, more scrutiny was placed on teachers and teaching material. Missouri parents have pushed for more rights to be informed on what their children are exposed to in class, being that, like many Americans, they were shocked to witness so many educators and school districts fight against children’s legal guardians’ right to know what is being taught in schools or privately discussed between a teacher and a student.
Kelli Hopkins, the MSBA Corporate Counsel and Associate Executive Director of Board Services, denied any wrongdoing. She claimed that the JFGA policy does not give teachers any authority to withhold information from parents unless a teacher suspects abuse. She also noted that the policy in question follows Missouri state law. Yet Missouri parents are well aware that their legislator failed to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would have solidified parental rights and ended a national effort to bring identity politics into the classroom.
Nowhere in the JFGA is abuse of child endangerment addressed as a catalyst for secret student/teacher discussions. Nowhere in the JFGA are there any rules prohibiting mature content from being discussed with minors. Based on the current situation, many Missouri parents have no reason to trust educators — or the learning institutions that support them — being that so many teachers across that country have taken it upon themselves to introduce their personal politics to students and work to sway them to agree with those ideologies.
Another concerning issue, which caused Missouri parents to question the JFGA policy, is that it was put in place before the MSBA broke away from the National School Board Association (NSBA). The MSBA terminated its affiliation with the NSBA in October of 2021. That move was applauded by parents who are fed up with school boards controlling education based on politics instead of student needs, but that break did not remove previous NSBA encouraged policies like the JFGA.
Missouri parents, and parents in many areas, are frustrated with public schools. Enrollment is plunging due to educational practices that leave families behind in favor of federal-led political initiatives. While schools hide fine print policies in order to retain control over students without parental consent, districts are learning just how involved children’s legal guardians truly are. Being that school funding is based on attendance and enrollment, many are wondering how districts will be able to function with diminishing budgets if they continue to push parents away.