Nebraska senators hear opinions on effort to give parents more control in public schools

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — A new bill would give parents more say over what their kids are learning in school.

“It’s about a parent being able to control the direction of their child’s educational well-being, not about government or educational bureaucrats,” said Sen. Dave Murman, who introduced LB 374. “It’s about parents working together with teachers and educators to do what’s best for their own children.”

The Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act would implement a portal where teachers would have to provide learning content and curriculum online for parents to access.

Parents, students and educators had a chance Tuesday to provide feedback on the proposal.

“We’ve seen schools overstep with mask mandates, we’ve seen teachers overstep, asking students’ preferred pronouns, and schools have overstepped with transition closets,” parent Marni Hodgen said. “Thousands of parents feel powerless. Additionally, parents want easy access to curriculum.”

Murman said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was meant to prevent racism in our country but that critical race theory teaches it to impressionable kids.

He has said Nebraska schools should be focused on the true history of our country, like how it’s been a leader in outlawing slavery.

Under his bill, parents would be able to object to material they feel conflicts with their beliefs, values or principles.

That could go as far as withdrawing children from classes or activities.

But opponents say this would force more work onto teachers who are already busy enough.

“This bill does not promote transparency; it promotes an image that teachers are a danger to kids and they’re not to be trusted,” said Tim Royers, a representative of the Nebraska State Education Association. “This bill is bad policy. Do not let it advance.”

Perhaps the most talked-about aspect of the bill is its wording around how educators teach racial concepts.

“I can think of no greater hatred than telling a classroom of 11-year-old students that white students are responsible for America’s history of slavers and colonizers,” Murman said. “By the same token, the idea that any teacher would potentially tell a Native American student that they are the descendant of uncultured barbarians is completely unacceptable. We can absolutely teach history in Nebraska without being racist.”

Murman said the bill never mentions critical race theory.

But it does talk about specific things that are prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such as showing preference to any race.

Those who oppose the bill said it’s too vague and could cause more problems in the long run.

“We must seek to know the history,” said Khenda Mustafa, a representative of Nebraska Appleseed. “The laws, practices and institutions, structures and barriers based on race and sex that come out of that history and continue to impact us today in order to learn from our mistakes as a country and as individuals in order to do better in the future.”

LB 374 would also allow parents to submit appeals to their school librarian if they disagree with content found in any books.

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