Assembly Bill 510 received a public hearing by the Committee on Family Law on Wednesday, November 8th. This bill follows a similar bill’s failure to become law in the past couple years after a veto by Governor Evers. The bill’s introduction framed its content as “common sense” safety for children by giving their parents a variety of rights that could be enforced through civil lawsuit. The introduction also included fears about the dangers of social media and “AI pornography.”
The small hearing room was packed full of a diverse audience eager to testify. The bill would grant parents and guardians rights over their child’s name and pronouns used in schools, forcibly outing them and potentially putting them in danger of abuse. It would also grant these rights to require schools to send any “controversial subject” for parental clearance first.
Specifically, the bill lists gender identity, sexual orientation, racial identity, and systemic racism as examples. During the hearing, it was confirmed that a child’s parent or guardian could opt them out of history lessons that might tackle “controversial subjects,” albeit, at the risk of losing a credit necessary for graduation.
These rights would be enforceable by allowing parents to file a civil lawsuit for a variety of financial restitution. Notably, this right to civil suit would be reserved against public institutions, giving private schools an exclusion.
Various members of Moms for Liberty, an anti-LGBTQ+ organization, framed queer and trans people as some evil corrupting force. WILL, a conservative law firm known for taking cases against diversity initiatives and testifying in favor of anti-queer bills in the legislature, also spoke. They claim the bill would not be censorship, and would end issues they see in gender and sexuality education, and critical race theory.
Opponents of the bill claim it would censor skilled educators, exclude vulnerable students like trans youth, and divide communities in their education. Folks testified that the so-called “Parents’ Rights Bill” was just another thinly veiled anti-diversity bill among the dozens that have swept through GOP-controlled legislatures in the past couple of years. Community and mental health advocates warned about severe impact on children’s’ well-being from being forcibly outed or excluded as a “controversial subject.”
This bill comes as schools are increasingly a primary battleground for a so-called “culture war” that threatens to remove diversity. This bill, if passed by the legislature, would face likely death once again by the Governor’s veto power.