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The Conflict Over Parents’ Rights

The issue of parental control over public school curricula has been a longstanding concern, with courts generally limiting the extent of parental influence. While the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes parents' right to choose educational settings, it has not granted them the authority to dictate public school curricula or demand exemptions. Lower federal courts have consistently rejected such claims, citing the impractical burden on school systems. Recently, a vocal minority of parents, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, have rallied under the banner of "parents' rights" to push for changes in curricula and policies affecting all students. Some conservative groups and politicians seized on these frustrations, framing pandemic-related measures as government overreach. However, it is crucial to recognize that public schools serve broader societal goals, aiming to educate a diverse population for active participation in democratic civic culture. While policymakers should listen to parental concerns, they must avoid crafting policies that undermine overarching societal objectives, seeking a balance that serves the greater community without compromising the fundamental purpose of public education.

Suggested Citation: Hamilton, V.E. (2024). The conflict over parents' rights. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from