In response to the House Education Committee hearing on a bill to enhance parental rights, State Representative Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) implied that the fault lied with parents, not with the schools. He said that the legislature should maintain a limited government approach and not create more burdens for schools.
“We [should] encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s education,” said Hernandez. “The vast majority of parents aren’t as engaged as they should be.”
The bill in question, HB2161, was introduced by State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix). It would prohibit any employee of the state or its political subdivisions, entities, or institutions from: withholding information from parents related to their child’s physical, emotional, or mental health; interfering in parents’ control over their child’s upbringing, education, health care, and mental health; denying or inhibiting parents’ rights to access any of their child’s written or electronic medical records, attendance scores, test scores, grades, extracurricular activities, club participation, disciplinary or psychological records, admission applications, health and immunization information, teacher and counselor evaluations and behavioral pattern reports, email accounts, and online or virtual accounts and data. Government entities or officials may only invoke control over a child’s upbringing, education, health care, and mental health if there’s a compelling government interest demonstrated.
The bill also included provisions specific to schools, such as prohibiting school districts or their employees from withholding information from parents related to purported gender identity or requested gender transitions. It also required schools to obtain written informed consent from parents prior to administering any survey soliciting personal information, as well as share a copy of the survey in question seven days prior to administering it.
Violations of the bill could result in disciplinary action to the offending employee, a $500 fine for school districts, and lawsuits against the governmental entity or official from the parents.
The bill passed the House Education Committee by a bare majority, 6-5.
State Representatives Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), Lupe Diaz (R-Hereford), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), and Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria) voted for the bill. Those who voted against the bill were State Representatives Daniel Hernandez Jr. (D-Tucson), Joel John (R-Arlington), Judy Schweibert (D-Phoenix), Myron Tsosie (D-Chinle), and Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler).
During conversations of the bill, several school-related issues reported by AZ Free News were brought up: the encouragement of students to identify their given names as deadnames and instead identify by their preferred names on identification, the formation of K-12 LGBTQ clubs through an organization called GLSEN whose content focuses on the sexualization of children, the pornographic and explicit book assigned even after promised revocation at Horizon High School, and surveys that encourage students to disclose private information about their home life.
Kaiser said he would “absolutely” consider increasing the penalty to schools from $500, which Fillmore said might be too low because that amount was paltry for school districts.
Schwiebert expressed concern that forced exposure of private, more emotional conversations between a teacher and student would result in hardships for the student. Kaiser asserted that it wasn’t the teacher’s role to serve as a support system. He said he hoped he’d get a call from a teacher if his child was struggling with something, and would be horrified if they didn’t because it’s not their job.
“Their job is to teach my son reading, writing and math, their job is not to console my son. Their job is to let me know,” said Kaiser.
John then asked if there was any time where a student could tell a teacher something in confidence that wouldn’t be shared with parents, exempting information involving something illegal. Kaiser said no.
In response, Udall shared that she had several teenage students in the past approach her about their underage pregnancies. Kaiser said that he didn’t have an answer for that specific situation; Udall advised that Kaiser should consider situations which would allow teachers to leave it to the children to tell their parents.
Fillmore chimed in to ask Udall if there wasn’t a duty to report teenage pregnancies; Udall didn’t have an exact answer, saying that she believed that only incidents related to abuse were those teachers were required to report.
Community members who spoke in opposition of the bill said that it violated the rights of youth, mainly an alleged right to privacy. One example came from ACLU of Arizona spokesman Jeff Esposito who said that the bill was unnecessary at best and dangerous at worst. Nguyen retorted that Esposito and his ilk were driving a wedge between parents and their children by allowing educators to decide what information parents may know.
“You’re, in a way, making a decision for me [as a parent],” said Nguyen.
Fillmore then asked Esposito if his only contention with the bill was the outing of a child’s sexuality. Esposito said no, but then repeated that sexuality and its impact on mental health were of paramount concern.
“What I’m saying is a student may make a choice to reveal private information to a trusted adult and then that trusted adult may make that choice to reveal that information to parents,” said Esposito. “But to jump that line and make that information known to parents before the student is ready […] sometimes those students need a trusted adult to go to and their rights to privacy should be respected.”
Fillmore challenged the notion that children had authority to do what they’d like that suits them best without parental knowledge or oversight.
In closing remarks, Blackman said that schools have no right to subvert parents’ wills or act as a parent would in certain situations. He criticized the implication that preventing government employees from serving as middlemen between parents and children would result in children facing hardships such as homelessness and drug addiction.
“When she’s going to bed at night, she’s going to my house. Not at the counselors’ house and not at the teachers house,” asserted Blackman. “Schools are trying to get in the middle where the parents should be to comfort that child, to teach that child. And all I hear is, ‘the parent has no rights.’ If the parent has no rights for those medical records, is the school going to pay that medical bill? You’re not going to do that. As a parent I have a right to know every single thing that’s going on with my child.”
Diaz added that parents are divinely ordained by God to care for their children — not schools. Diaz said he discerned from parent testimonies that a variety of God-given rights were violated by schools, including the First and Fourth Amendments.
“God created the parents to be the responsible entity for the children,” said Diaz. “Our man’s laws should be a reflection of divine law. Every parent is going to stand before God and answer for their children. And I respect you parents who have come here and have stood for your own parental rights and for your children.”
Amid the turmoil of the Biden Administration’s Afghanistan Crisis, civilians are stepping up to save the lives of American citizens and Afghans who assisted our country throughout the war. State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix) is one of those civilians.
AZ Free News reached out to Kaiser after obtaining his press release asserting that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris bore the blame for the Taliban’s takeover. In that statement, Kaiser mentioned Afghan nationals he’d befriended who were still in Afghanistan. We reached out to Kaiser to elaborate; it was then the representative revealed that he and others have been busy with extraction efforts for those Afghans who served alongside American soldiers.
Kaiser explained that this effort began when he received a message from one of the Afghan nationals he’d befriended, following the Taliban takeover.
“We have two interpreters that we worked over there that were still over there when all this started. I was Facebook friends for a lot of years with one of them. He was always in Kabul – he’s got kids now and is married,” explained Kaiser. “When all this fell apart, all of a sudden he was emailing me[.]”
At that point, Kaiser and fellow service members reached out to Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ-06) and some active duty members for help. In the meantime, the coalition got to work pulling together the special immigrant visa paperwork necessary.
“I’m definitely just working as a civilian through a congressman. That’s my only lever right now,” said Kaiser. “We’re lucky that some of us that were in the unit together have stayed in the military.”
As of this publication, the Afghan national and his family have made it safely to the U.S.
However, their coalition’s work isn’t done. This week, another Afghan ally reached out to Kaiser.
“I got a phone call and I saw on the phone the caller ID that it’s from Afghanistan. I normally wouldn’t answer in the middle of a meeting, but I did,” explained Kaiser. “[It was] another interpreter stuck in Kabul with his family. You could hear the fear in his voice[.]”
Kaiser explained that these people they’re saving aren’t just attempting to get to America – they’re those who fought alongside American soldiers, making the difficult decision to leave their homeland for the safety of themselves and their families. He emphasized that this is the purpose of asylum.
“These are people that are friends and stood next to us in a warzone and are hunted actively for standing with us,” explained Kaiser. “There are people being disparaging about this – calling them the ‘unwashed masses.’ I can tell you – there’s ten Afghans coming to Arizona. Five of them are from two different families and four are individual males. They all had special immigrant visa paperwork – there’s a lot that goes into [that paperwork]. These are people who have special immigrant visas, who are already people who worked alongside us [in the military]. These are people that stood next to us, faced death and dismemberment and are now being hunted. They deserve the same respect as our service members.”
Kaiser explained further that the Afghan nationals, such as the interpreter currently needing help, were the ones who ensured the safety of American soldiers.
“These interpreters kept us safe. They didn’t just translate for us. They were cultural advisors, they were local nationals from Kabul [who] grew up in Afghanistan,” said Kaiser. “They filled in a lot of cultural gaps that we didn’t get because our training was pretty poor going over there.”
This wasn’t Kaiser’s first time assisting Afghan nationals. Kaiser mentioned that he’d assisted in extracting another friend years ago – one who’d lost both legs and an arm serving alongside American soldiers. That friend is now happily married with several daughters.
Kaiser understands that the issue is controversial, but these aren’t just any Afghans. They’re the people who were willing to sacrifice for the American cause.
“I’m a conservative, and I know people say that loosely and easily. I understand it’s going to be controversial – I understand where they are coming from,” said Kaiser. “If I lose an election saying this, so be it – this is more important than that. This is life and death, you know?”
On Friday, a group of Arizona legislators reached out to Governor Doug Ducey with an offer to work with him to address the “omnipresent border crisis.” In a letter to the governor, the legislators also inquire as to the level of funding provided to the Border Strike Force.
Led by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the lawmakers advised the governor that they hope to work with him to “come up with a concrete plan to further allocate resources to complete portions of the Border wall and ensure Border Strike Force is fully funded.”
The lawmakers accuse the Biden Administration of not making “the public safety or health of Arizonans” a top priority, noting that it “took until today for Vice President Kamala Harris to see the invasion for herself in El Paso.”
“We applaud other governors answering your call for assistance to send some of their law enforcement as back up as the ongoing invasion continues along the southern Border,” write the lawmakers. “The problem is real. We wish you didn’t have to rely on other states to bail us out because the federal government has failed us, but illegal immigration affects every state.”
The lawmakers cite as a source of concern an incident that occurred earlier this year which was “highlighted in the local newspaper that the Department of Public Safety release two confessed human smuggler with just a traffic citation after stopping him along a valley freeway in April with a van full of illegal immigrants.”
“It was rather alarming to read that the illegal immigrants in the van were released into the Phoenix area even though it is a direct violation of state law to be in our state unlawfully. It is noted that the federal agents would not pick up this van full of illegal immigrants if they weren’t violent felons. If the Border Strike Force isn’t identifying traffickers along the southern Border and they are making their way into the Valley, is the Border Strike Force understaffed and underfunded?”
The lawmakers expressed a desire to “work together to further investigate why this human trafficker was let go.”
“We support trade relations with Mexico, but we do not want transnational crime rings bringing further ruin into our state. It is past time to plug the gaping holes on state land that buttress Mexico allowing traffickers to invade our state.”
The lawmakers argue that border security is a states’ rights issue.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would build its border wall. Abbotts aid that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.
“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute,” Abbott said on a podcast show called “Ruthless.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Ducey and Abbott urgently requested all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to their states along the U.S.-Mexico border as illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody increase.
The Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers for May showed more than 180,000 illegal aliens were apprehended crossing the border over the course of the month, a 674% increase from the 23,237 illegal aliens apprehended at the border in May 2020.
In a joint letter from Ducey and Abbott, fellow governors were told: “In response to the ongoing surge of illegal border crossings, with the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens, Governor Abbott has declared a disaster and Governor Ducey has declared an emergency.”
Bolick was joined in the letter by Reps. Becky Nutt, Tim Dunn, Walt Blackman, Brenda Barton, John Kavanaugh, Mark Finchem, Joseph Chaplik, Beverly Pingerelli, Leo Biasiucci, Judy Burgess, Frank Carroll, Quang Nguyen, John Fillmore, Jacqueline Parker, and Steve Kaiser.
Earlier today I wrote a letter to @dougducey addressing the #BorderCrisis & the need to work together to solve it. Many of my fellow legislators co-signed it. If the Fed’s aren’t going to finish building the wall, AZ should. ???? pic.twitter.com/DXbit71KP3