Florida Democrat Files Bill to Block Parental Rights Law That Opponents Say Keeps Children From ‘Ideas’

By Darlene McCormick Sanchez
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
Darlene McCormick Sanchez
Darlene McCormick Sanchez reports for The Epoch Times from Texas. She writes on a variety of issues with a focus on Texas politics, election fraud, and the erosion of traditional values. She previously worked as an investigative reporter and covered crime, courts, and government for newspapers in Texas, Florida, and Connecticut. Her work on The Sinful Messiah series, which exposed Branch Davidians leader David Koresh, was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative reporting in the 1990s.
January 26, 2023Updated: January 26, 2023

The “Children’s Bill of Rights Act” filed by a Florida Democrat could potentially strip away a parent’s right to stop their child from accessing sexually explicit material, or gender, or racial literature.

House Bill 217, filed on Jan. 17 by Michele Rayner-Goolsby (D), appears to be the Left’s answer to the Parental Rights in Education law championed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The children’s rights bill would give a child the right to receive “ideas of any kind” orally, in writing, in print, or through art forms.

It also gives the child the right to privacy and to preserve his or her identity while giving the state the power to “restore” the child’s right to identity if violated.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis displays the signed Parental Rights in Education bill flanked by elementary school students during a news conference at Classical Preparatory school in Shady Hills, Fla., on March 28, 2022. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The bill says this access should be “with guidance and supervision from the parent or parents” but does not say the parent can deny the child access to ideas.

The children’s rights bill would clash with the Parental Rights in Education law, passed in 2022, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Act” by liberal opponents. It prohibited classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

The parental rights law also requires school districts to notify parents if there is a change in services from the school regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health, or well-being.

It builds upon the Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation passed in 2021, where parents direct their child’s upbringing, education, health care, and mental health.

Alex Nester, political director of Parents Defending Education Action, said in a statement that the bill would subvert parental rights in Florida.

If passed, the so-called Children’s Bill of Rights Act could allow state agencies to assume responsibility over a minor child who is “denied” the ability to express elements of his or her identity, or is considered a “vulnerable youth” based on a “lack of positive adult relationships,” Nester said.

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Parents protest outside the Davis Joint Unified School District offices over a talk featuring Rachel Pepper, co-author of “The Transgender Child,” in Davis, Calif., on Jan. 11, 2023. (Courtesy of Our Duty)

“Unfortunately, bad actors seek to undo those achievements,” he said. “This bill, at its core, seeks to dismantle one of the foundational elements of our society: the family unit.”

Nester said activists have attempted to strip the rights of parents to be involved in their child’s education and lives.

HB 217 would block parents from intervening if they believe their child’s pursuit of switching genders would have catastrophic consequences for the child’s well-being, he said.

In Florida and around the country, gender activists have sought to give children the ability to make life-altering decisions without input from parents.

Activists claim that affirming a child’s transgender identity and “gender-affirming care” improves mental health for children with a higher risk of suicide.

Many school districts have gone along with the Biden administration’s recommendation to recognize transgender student protection in schools, saying they must allow students to use opposite-sex pronouns and names and use the bathroom of their gender identity.

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Activists and members of the transgender community protest against a Trump administration announcement that rescinds an Obama-era order allowing transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities, at the Stonewall Inn on Feb. 23, 2017 in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

School districts have, in many cases, bought into the Biden administration’s push to keep a student’s gender switch a secret from parents as a privacy right.

Likewise, many parents have rejected the idea that schools should teach gender and race ideologies to their children, and that they instead should focus on education.

In 2022, conservative groups ran candidates in multiple states to win back control of local school boards to curtail progressive social justice in education.

Last year, DeSantis endorsed some 30 conservative school board candidates in local races.

The proposed children’s rights legislation would change the oversight from a cabinet appointed by the governor to a commission.

Appointments to the commission would come from the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, various agencies, and the governor, according to the bill.

Moy implored lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to “kill” the bill—and defend the rights of all Florida parents.

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A poster at an RSU 22 school in Maine suggests coming up with a new gender. (Courtesy of a student)

The children’s rights bill has several mechanisms to protect children from accessing and pursuing “ideas.”

“Any restrictions imposed upon the exercise of the child’s rights may only be by law and as necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, or the protection of public order,” the bill says.

It adds a child will be protected legally from “capricious, or unlawful interference or attacks” on the child’s privacy, family, home, and correspondence with parents.

Children would have the right to preserve their identity, including nationality, name, and family relations as recognized by law—or else the state would step in.

The bill says the state or governmental agencies that provide services for children “shall respect the rights and duties of the parents to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her rights in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities and needs of the child.”

“If passed, House Bill 217 would open the door for sweeping subversions of parental rights in the Sunshine state,” Moy said.

Michele Rayner-Goolsby, who filed the bill, did not respond to an email seeking comment.