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Court to hear legal challenge to new WA Parents Bill of Rights next week

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(The Center Square) – A King County Superior Court judge will next week hear arguments in a lawsuit over the new parent’s bill of rights, adopted by lawmakers from citizen initiative I-2081.

The new law gives parents, among other things, access to instructional materials and notification when a student is seeking counseling or medical care for issues related to sex or gender confusion.

But, the ACLU and other groups argue the law is in violation of the state and federal Constitution, upholding youth privacy rights and inclusion protections.

The complaint filed in late May says in part: “Certain provisions of Initiative 2081 erode current privacy protections for young people, may interfere with or discourage trusted conversations school-based healthcare providers and educators have with students, prevent students from seeking assistance, and greatly frustrate a school’s ability to cover a wide range of topics in curriculum.”

This week, Silent Majority Foundation (SMF) filed a Motion to Intervene in the lawsuit. The Washington Attorney General’s office will defend the new law, but Pete Serrano, General Counsel for Silent Majority Foundation, says they want to ensure the measure is vehemently defended.

“The purpose of the intervention is to ensure that I-2081 is adequately defended, thus upholding the voice of the people of Washington state,” said Serrano. “While the Attorney General’s Office is presently defending the action, SMF will stand with Let’s Go Washington and other individuals and organizations who spent significant resources on the passage of the Parents bill of rights.”

Serrano, who is running for Washington Attorney General, tells The Center Square, “We want to make sure all the salient arguments are advanced on behalf of the parents of the state of Washington and their children.”

Asked if he believes the arguments made by the ACLU and the others bringing the litigation have a valid legal argument, Serrano said, “They argue the legislation violated the constitution because it’s not clear on its face, but I don’t believe that to be the case.”

“An initiative by the people, for the people, of the people passed and it was adopted last session,” said Serrano. “We are going to seek to defend all the laws implemented by the initiative.”

Chris Reykdal with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction last week encouraged Washington’s 295 school districts to ignore the new law.

A news release from OSPI said in part: Some of these (student) records contain personal information and are protected under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and as such, cannot be disclosed without the student’s consent.”

Serrano says he believes Reykdal’s personal opposition to 2081 is getting in the way.

“It seems like Reykdal is using the sword and shield of HIPAA and FERPA to hind behind that,” said Serrano. “It’s like during COVID 19 when he told school districts if they didn’t obey what he said, he would pull their funds. He’s taking that same stance here.”

While this plays out in the courts, school districts will soon have to make decisions on curriculum impacted by the new law, for the 2024-2025 school year.

“Even though he said you don’t have to comply, he’s not saying you can’t comply,” said Serrano. “Those districts can comply with the new law, and should.”

The motion to intervene will be heard on June 21 in King County Superior Court.

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