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'Parents' Bill of Rights' heads to DeSantis for final approval

'The parents can step up and make sure that they are in charge,' Sen. Ray Rodrigues says
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Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 22, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Only the governor's pen is required to secure a "Parents' Bill of Rights" in Florida.

Senators gave final legislative approval to the policy Thursday morning. It followed a near party-line vote, 24-15. Sen. Lauren Book was the only Democrat to join Republicans in support.

Proponents believed the policy better organizes the state code for mothers and fathers, building a straightforward list of rights.

Patti Sullivan, the head of Parental Rights Florida, said the state has needed the change for years.

"I shouldn't have to be an attorney to understand what my rights are," Sullivan said. "It's such common sense to put them all in one place."

The measure, HB 241, creates the "Parents' Bill of Rights" to provide more clarity and control over a child's education, mental health and health care. Parents could more easily opt kids out of medical procedures like vaccinations or object to courses like sex education.

"The parents can step up and make sure that they are in charge," Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Fort Myers, who sponsored the Senate's version of the policy, said. "What we're seeing is government power encroaching and expanding. It will do so until the parents assert the rights that they have, but they have to know what those rights are in order to assert them."

LGBTQ groups have concerns. They worry broad language will force schools to disclose too much personal info, like a student's sexual orientation. They also worry that the bill offers no new protection for children living in abusive homes.

"We cannot allow this bill to become law in Florida," Carrie Boyd, with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said. "We have to continue to protect our youth. This is a civil rights issue that affects all of us."

The governor will now have to decide what action to take, sign or veto. Gov. Ron DeSantis did not reply to a request for comment, but he has approved bills supporting parents in the past, such as parental consent for abortions last year.

The bill takes effect July 1.