From prayer to books, Rokita updates ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’

By: - August 8, 2023 3:00 pm

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita updated his “Parents’ Bill of Rights” on Tuesday, Aug. 8. (Screenshot from Facebook Live video)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita released a fourth edition of his ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ document Tuesday, outlining what Hoosier parents can do to “oversee and participate in the part of our children’s education that occurs outside of the home.”

In a 30-minute live event broadcasted on Facebook, Rokita responded to submitted questions from the public and reporters, detailing the latest version.

“… I’ve been to several school board meetings and what I’ve seen recently is very, very positive; very encouraging, very exciting,” Rokita said. “And that is parents engaging their school boards, engaging their superintendents and principals and teachers and that’s because they’re realizing that, in raising their children, education is very much a cornerstone of that rearing.

“It’s not the teacher’s job — it’s certainly not the government’s job — to raise our children. It’s our job as parents.”

However, Rokita seemed to contradict himself when he said he supported the rights of parents with transgender children — even though he loudly urged the General Assembly earlier this year to bar that group of minors from accessing gender-affirming care, even with parental support.

Parents’ access to school boards

Rokita decried incidents where school resource officers removed parents from school board meetings, saying “raw emotion” and “miscommunication” played a role on both sides.

This document serves to educate parents on their rights, according to Rokita, including: school governance, curriculum, religious liberty, health records, vaccine information, removing school library books and pronoun change notifications.

Moving forward, the Parents’ Bill of Rights will be updated annually following changes from the General Assembly, Rokita said. However, he warned that the document shouldn’t be interpreted as legal advice.

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Rokita promoted so-called ‘school choice’ to move a child to another public school or use a voucher or Education Scholarship Account to enroll in a private school. The legal rights outlined include several controversial provisions added by lawmakers in the latest legislative session.

“You have the right to know what books are available to students in the school library and to request the removal of books that are obscene or include material harmful to minors,” Rokita said. “You have the right to be notified if your child requests to be addressed by a name or use pronouns of the opposite sex.”

On the latter, many parents have complained online about schools utilizing precious time to notify them about a child using a nickname or middle name in an attempt to comply with the law.

In response to a question about combating a “horrifying” but unnamed agenda, Rokita urged citizen engagement and claimed the “other side” wants “your kids dumbed down and indoctrinated and lacking critical thinking skills.”

Confusion about the rights of parents with transgender children

Other questions chosen by Rokita’s team were more confrontational, including one questioning his participation in a letter condemning Target for LGBTQ displays and asking what his office was doing to protect parents with transgender children.

In response to an off-topic question about abortion, Rokita said his office is prepared to defend the state’s “pro-life law.”

“… being a warrior for the culture of life … we have to love them both. Both the mother and the unborn child and then after the child is born as well.”

“Well, I think that — well, I know what we do is make sure that it doesn’t matter if you’re transgender or not, frankly, it’s — all children have the same rights. And, and even more important than that, all parents have the same rights and that’s how we approach everything that we do,” Rokita responded to the latter question.

Rokita has targeted health care providers who oversee gender-affirming care to minors and supported a state law restricting gender-affirming health care access for minors whose parents support their child’s transition.

When asked what the office would do in light of a federal court ruling to partially block the law restricting minor access to gender-affirming care, Rokita seemed to contradict himself and said ” … we’re going to fight for the right of parents to handle the upbringing of their children, not government (and) not schools.”

He said it seemed likely that the issue would split federal courts, meaning it could appear before the solidly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.


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Whitney Downard
Whitney Downard

A native of upstate New York, Whitney previously covered statehouse politics for CNHI’s nine Indiana papers, focusing on long-term healthcare facilities and local government. Prior to her foray into Indiana politics, she worked as a general assignment reporter for The Meridian Star in Meridian, Mississippi. Whitney is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University (#GoBonnies!), a community theater enthusiast and cat mom.