With the passage of Proposition 207 in 2006, Arizona became the nation’s leader in the protection of private property rights. This year, the enactment of Senate Bill 1309 will make Arizona the leader in protecting the rights of parents as well.
The opening passage of the bill is clear: “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children is a fundamental right.” State and local governments “shall not infringe these rights without demonstrating that the compelling governmental interest as applied to the child involved is of the highest order, is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.”
The bill preserves protections against child abuse, and requires school districts to notify parents of rights under other state laws that many (including me) didn’t know they have.
The U.S. Constitution protects the right of parents to control the upbringing and education of their children. But in most cases the courts defer to school districts rather than parents. For instance, legal challenges to mandatory student community service routinely have been rejected, and parents’ concerns about sex education or political correctness in the schools often reach deaf ears among school officials who are quite sure they know best.
This bill reverses the equation, making parents the masters of their children’s upbringing and school officials their agents. This bill is a great example of how much can be done to protect freedom at the state level. Our federal constitution provides the baseline for our liberties. But states are empowered to go beyond those freedoms.
Arizona sets the standard for doing just that. For parents who believe they can better determine their children’s best interests than the state, Arizona is now the place to be.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Arizona Legislature: Senate Bill 1309
Education Week: Mandatory community service found to be constitutional
USA Today: Let Families Decide