Lawsuit challenges 'parents' bill of rights' passed by Washington state legislature


A lawsuit filed Thursday challenging an initiative creating a "parents' bill of rights" claims the law, passed by the legislature this session, violates the state constitution.

Initiative 2081, which was passed by the Washington state Senate in March, would require schools to state what information the parent of a child in a public school was entitled to, including instructional materials. It includes 15 total rights, including notification of medical and safety matters.

Thursday's lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Washington, Legal Voice, and QLaw on behalf of ten nonprofit organizations, argues the initiative contains "vague and broad language" that would harm youth from marginalized communities.

Other plaintiffs include a former school nurse at West Seattle High School, a mother of two students in Seattle Public Schools and the South Whidbey School District.

Lawmakers in favor of the initiative have said it simply clarifies parents' existing rights and does not change or supersede existing laws like HIPAA. When the initiative fell under scrutiny this year, Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, said "if the language of this initiative creates any new confusion related to these rights, we stand ready to work to clear up any ambiguities."

"Parents shouldn't have to wade through state laws and rules to figure out what their rights are when it comes to knowing what is being taught at their child's school, or how the school responds to the health questions of students," Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, said in a March statement after the initiative was passed.

The lawsuit filed Thursday argues the parental notification provision contradicts privacy protections for health records and will interfere with students' ability to independently consent to medical treatment. The bill could also out LGBTQ+ students and endanger their safety, the lawsuit alleges.

"Initiative I-2081 rests on the assumption that all homes are safe, and that is sadly not the case," said Erin Lovell, executive director of the Legal Counsel for Youth and Children, in a news release.

The organizations seek an order from the King County Superior Court preventing the initiative from going into effect in June.

Representatives from the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction have said school districts will likely need guidance on implementing the initiative.


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