New proposal would give Nebraska parents more power over what kids learn at school
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Sen. Dave Murman is looking to give parents a lot more power over what’s happening at their child’s school with the Parents’ Bill of Rights and Academic Transparency Act.
He said it would enhance the trust between teachers and parents and allow them to know what’s being taught to students and access it more easily.
“Parents have been attending a lot of school board meetings, State Board of Education,” Murman said. “They’re very concerned about mainly comprehensive sex education that was proposed to being taught in our K-12 schools, but also critical race theory.”
The senator has previously accused the State Board of Education of providing learning materials that teach critical race theory.
His bill would ban educators from teaching that “individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color, or national origin, bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.”
Murman said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was meant to prevent racism in the U.S. but that critical race theory teaches racism in schools.
“We want to teach true history,” he said. “I think the positives of this country and how this country has been a leader to outlaw slavery and racism is what should be emphasized in our schools.”
Last year, a number of controversial books were brought to the attention of the Nebraska State Board of Education, and at the time, we learned that libraries at Lincoln Public Schools had several of them readily available for students.
Murman’s bill would create a process in which parents could inspect literature offered to their students and object to material they feel conflicts with their beliefs, values or principles.
Parents could also withdraw their children from classes or activities if that’s the case.
Sen. Danielle Conrad is skeptical about Murman’s bill because parents already have the ability to opt out of curriculum they find objectionable.
“When we start to wade into measures and issues that extend book banning or that fight against the ability for teachers to teach the truth about our history … that’s really government censorship at its worst,” she said. “And all Nebraskans should be concerned about those efforts.”
When asked whether this bill would open the door to banning books, Murman said, “If a book is in the library, and children that are not age-appropriate have access to that book, that book should not be in the library. So if that’s what you’re referring to as book banning, that’s a good thing.”
Deb Rasmussen of the Lincoln Education Association, who worked as a guidance counselor at LPS for 30 years, said she always supported parents and teachers working together to find what’s best for their children’s education.
“I had parents come in all the time and say, ‘I don’t want my child to have this part of this science lesson or I don’t want this to happen in the P.E. class,'” she said. “So the teachers would come up with alternate lessons, or we’d come up with an alternate placement for some of that time, or assignments.”
Rasmussen thinks the bill overreaches somewhat. She said that it should be up to the school boards to decide curriculum by working with parents and that the state doesn’t need to step in.
“I hate politics being a part of my classroom in that way,” she said.
Rasmussen said just because some parents don’t like what’s being taught doesn’t mean it should be taken away from everyone.
“Parents have a right to say, ‘I don’t want this taught, I’m gonna teach it at home,'” she said. “But some of it is basic biology class, and part of biology is reproductive systems in plants and animals.”
Rasmussen also said when it comes to topics like sex education and critical race theory, people aren’t always informed about what is taught in school.
“We have not taught critical race theory,” she said. “Teaching about history in a true sense is not critical race theory. That’s done at college and usually in legal classes.”
She said if people visited schools, they could see what was going on.
Opponents say that getting parents involved in their child’s school is essential but that Murman’s proposal could hurt efforts to recruit and retain teachers.