Parental ‘bill of rights’ heads to DeSantis’ desk

(AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)
(AP Photo/Phil Sears, File) (Copyright 2019 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE – Legislation that would make it easier for parents to understand their legal rights when it comes to their children is headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

While there was no debate on the floor, the vote came down largely along party lines.

Bill sponsor and Republican State Sen. Ray Rodrigues said that ultimately, the bill doesn’t really change anything.

“Currently, parental rights are spread throughout the Florida statute, which is literally tens of thousands of pages. If you’re not an expert and know how to navigate that it can be difficult to find exactly all of the rights that are enumerated to parents. We fixed that now. We have one section where they’re easily found,” said Rodrigues.

Those rights span from the realm of education to health care.

“We’ve taken case law in the area of health care, which has long held that parents need to consent to healthcare for their children, and we’ve put it in statute. So we’ve codified that so it’s clear,” said Rodrigues.

But there is opposition to the legislation.

LGBTQ+ advocates fear the bill will require school guidance counselors to “out” children to their parents.

“And young people who are struggling with their self identity will know there is no safe adult in their schools,” said the Rev. Russell Meyer with the Florida Council of Churches.

But Rodrigues said that’s not the case, arguing the rights over a child’s health care don’t carry over to guidance councilors.

“A school guidance counselor is not a health care practitioner. Any child at any school can go see their school guidance counselor without specific prior authorization,” said Rodrigues.

And if you’re a parent and don’t want to hit the statue books, part of the bill will require schools to inform you about your rights.

If the governor signs the bill, it will take effect on July 1.