Education, Medical Care Focus Of New Parental Rights Bill

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-If you're a parent then you're probably well aware of your right to make decisions for your child, but one local lawmaker says you may be surprised to know that you may not be the boss in a few key areas.

Decisions that range from what your child reads in school to what medicine they take are now the topic of a newly drafted parental rights bill at the state capitol. Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) is sponsoring SB 203, which explicitly states that parents have a fundamental right to direct their child's education, upbringing and care. Sen. Sanford said the simple and straightforward language is needed for a reason.

"You find out that government has some barrier to allow me to make the right decision," said Sanford. "They are unique situations, but they are occurring out there. We're just trying to put something in place to make sure that parents know that they're the ones in charge of the situation."

Sanford pointed to recent cases in other states where parents who objected to certain classroom curriculum for religious and faith-based reasons had their "opt out" request overruled. He said a recent case in Massachusetts is one example of state authorities subverting the wishes and rights of parents.

"There's been a book called 'My Two Dads' that was being taught to some kindergarteners, and the parents didn't want to participate in it," said Sanford. "They asked if they could remove their child from that situation, but this particular school system didn't allow the child to do that."

Sen. Sanford said medical care was another motivating factor for the bill. He told us that parents may be surprised to know that some doctors will not release their child's medical information in certain cases unless the child gives their consent, citing federal HIPAA laws.

"As a parent I need to know the well-being and health of my child if I take them to the doctor, " said Sanford. "There's some situations with mental illness cases where children in Alabama are actually given the option to not receive treatment, even though it might not be in there best interest. Parents should be, in those situations, empowered to make the best decisions for their children."

Sen. Sanford is also authoring a bill that would prevent judges from mandating college tuition payments in child support cases. Sanford said he believes those cases are family, not government, matters. Last year the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the college tuition payments were an issue the Alabama Legislature needed to decide.

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