Are Parental Rights an Afterthought in Our State?

June 25

The coronavirus disrupted routine legislative activity in Trenton over the past three months.  Though many virus restrictions have now been lifted, the statehouse continues to prohibit visitors and public testimony. The legislature convenes committee hearings on pending bills through Zoom meeting technology. Yet, one thing that has not changed in the policy making process in NJ is the familiar assault on parental rights, particularly in the realm of education and health.

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey believes parents are the primary educators and caregivers of their children. Though the state has an interest in protecting and tracking the health of students, their recent attempt to approve Assembly Bill 970 out of the Health Committee was troubling.

A970 mandates mental health screenings of all NJ public school students in seventh through twelfth grade without the consent or notification of the student’s parents at all prior to the screening and in only limited circumstances after the screening. A failure to notify and seek the approval of parents for any physical or mental health screening of their child violates parental rights and violates current state education law (N.J. Stat. 18A:36-34). We must not allow state officials to supersede the rights of parents in making decisions regarding the health care of their children.

I contacted the primary sponsor of this bill, Assemblyman Conoway (D), to share our concerns about the absence of parental consent in the proposed law. In response to the concerns of parents across the state new language was proposed that required the school district to obtain a written consent from the parent or guardian at the beginning of the school year prior to any mental health screening. We applaud this improved language. However, during my public testimony, I reminded the legislature that parental rights should not be an afterthought in drafting legislation. Parental rights are constitutionally protected rights! But many of our own state representatives and school staff seemed to have forgotten this.

I was stunned during public testimony when multiple advocacy groups representing principals, administrators, and counselors publicly opposed the addition of language requiring that parents be notified before mental health screenings. These groups insisted that requiring parents to give consent would somehow alter the student’s answers. These education lobbyists advocated for removing you from your child’s healthcare. This is unacceptable.

Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey stood strong and will continue to stand for families and your parental rights. We will not rest until parents regain their God-given rights and responsibilities to raise their children. Would you consider a gift this week to support our efforts in defending the family?

Let’s make NJ better,

Shawn Hyland
Director of Advocacy