Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday signed legislation that greatly expands the rights of parents to know anything their children tell a teacher or school counselor, the latest Republican effort to promote parental rights ahead of the 2022 election.
The measure, which passed the GOP-controlled Legislature in party-line votes, also allows parents to sue school districts or officials if information is withheld.
Republican supporters said the measure gives teeth to parents’ rights to direct their children’s upbringing.
“The new law will protect children from activist school officials and foster healthy family relationships,” Cathi Herrod, director of the social conservative group Center for Arizona Policy, said in a statement.
Democrats said the measure will put children at risk and keep young people from confiding in trusted adults.
“Once they realize that anything they tell a counselor or a teacher is going to go to their parents, some of them, potentially a lot of them, will just simply stop talking,” Sen. Christine Marsh of Phoenix said during a recent Senate debate. “They are no longer going to have that trusted adult to confide in.”
The bill requires teachers and school counselors to tell a student’s parents anything the child discloses in confidence. That includes anything relevant to the physical, emotional or mental health of the child.
It requires schools to allow access to all educational records and to a counselor’s notes.
Rep. Steve Kaiser, a Phoenix Republican who sponsored the bill, said that while parents have been able to talk to teachers and principals, they have little recourse if they believed their children were being led astray.
Ducey, a Republican, signed the measure without comment. It comes amid a growing push in GOP-controlled states to emphasize parental rights, which Republicans see as a potent issue in this year’s midterm elections.