TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Senate Education Committee passed the 'Parents' Bill of Rights' on a party-line vote Monday, with Republicans dismissing vocal criticism that the legislation would lead to public schools devoid of critical teachings only a minority of parents find objectionable.

  • SB 1634 would allow parents to opt kids out of lessons they object
  • Senator contends it enumerates rights already granted to parents
  • Activists say measure could have dire impact on Florida schools

The measure, SB 1634, has been filed by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), who last week steered her controversial abortion parental consent mandate legislation to Senate passage. Like the parental consent bill, the Parents' Bill of Rights is concerned with better informing parents about their children’s lives.

Stargel contends it simply enumerates rights already granted to parents under Florida law.

"It’s basically compiling together so that parents can be involved with their children, parents know that they have the rights, and parents have the ability to govern their kids in the way that they feel best as opposed to the state," she told the committee before Monday's vote.

But progressive activists warned the legislation would have a much greater impact in Florida's schools than Stargel has suggested. By including an opt-out provision whereby parents could remove their children from lessons they disagree with, the activists said state-required teachings on such topics as the Holocaust, African American history, and sexual education could be skipped by countless students.

They also said it could discourage students from seeking on-campus counseling about their sexual identification.

"This bill takes away the right of queer and trans kids to even have their own personal identification of themselves, the right to have to tell their parents of their queerness and their transness, in their way, on their terms," said Delilah Pierre, an LGBT rights activist. "This bill makes it possible for people to erase even more LGBTQ history."

The legislation's House companion bill will be considered by that chamber's education committee Tuesday.