Parental rights, parental consent

An article in today’s Boston Globe by Dana Goldstein, “New school laws have unintended consequences in Fla.: bureaucracy,” reports on unintended consequences of Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education Act.” The Globe picked up this article from the New York Times, which ran it on Wed., Jan. 10 — here’s a free version of the article.

Under Florida’s new law, many school districts are now requiring permission slips for what used to be routine matters. For example, some school districts are now require permission forms for putting a band-aid on a child, because the new law requires that parents be able to opt out of health care services for their children.

The result, according to Goldstein, is increased paperwork: “Educators across the state say recent laws and regulations around parental consent have created an entirely new bureaucracy, filled with forms and nagging phone calls to parents.” Goldstein goes on to report: “While no state has gone as far as Florida with parental consent requirements, dozens of states are considering bills inspired by Florida’s laws.”

I don’t expect many new laws requiring parental consent for religious education programs. Nevertheless, one result of law like this is that parents are coming to expect to be allowed to exercise more granular control over their children’s experiences. Congregations are going to have to be increasingly sensitive to parent expectations — and congregations are going to face an increasing paperwork burden as they track parent consent on a widening range of matters.