School officials are to blame for parent uprising

Families raise children, not teachers or bureaucrats

Parents who show up to school board meetings and engage in discussions have crossed a line, according to national news headlines. This presumption that families have no business telling public schools how to educate their children goes against Michigan’s deepest schooling traditions. Decisions regarding a child’s education are supposed to be made at the local level. There is a reason for local school board elections.

We see this today. Families are stepping up against the encroachment of public schools upon their values, religion, politics, and ideology.

Government leaders are usurping parents’ authority while showing hostility to their values. School officials get upset because, they say, parents are telling them what they should teach and are inserting themselves into the school domain. This narrative is contrived, backwards and false.

It is not the parents who encroach on schools’ territory. Public schools opened this Pandora’s Box when they forced their values, ideologies, and beliefs onto children, disregarding parents’ ultimate authority on these issues. Had schools focused on reading, writing, science and arithmetic, test scores might not be in steep decline today.

Subjective ideology is not an objective educational requirement, nor is it necessary for students to absorb political beliefs of any kind. After using children for social experimentation, schools cry foul when parents hold them accountable.

Michigan Democrats received major backlash earlier this year after tweeting that “The purpose of public education in a public school is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know. The client of the public school is not the parent, but the entire community, the public.” Faced with tough questions and screenshots, Michigan Democrats quickly deleted the post, conceding that the statement “ignored the important role parents play—and should play—in Michigan public schools.”

It’s unusual to hear school officials or elected representatives acknowledge what the law says is the proper role of parents in their children’s education. That is in Public Act 451of 1976, which states:

“It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching, and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil's parents and legal guardians to develop the pupil's intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment.”

The Nation’s Report Card on school outcomes reveals that many public school districts fail to provide even proficient academic outcomes. Yet schools now want to take on a bigger parenting role through providing wrap-around services. They have hired mental health and social workers to talk with minors about life-altering medical decisions without parental consent. It is happening in Seattle and other areas of the country.

What most Michigan residents are not aware of is that there is already a law in place to allow strangers to provide mental healthcare to a child without parental knowledge. Public Act 258 of 1974 states:

“A minor 14 years of age or older may request and receive mental health services and a mental health professional may provide mental health services, on an outpatient basis, excluding pregnancy termination referral services and the use of psychotropic drugs, without the consent or knowledge of the minor’s parent, guardian, or person in loco parentis.”

Beyond the obvious danger of a rogue mental health therapist is a simpler professional question: How does the therapist accurately assess the needs of a child without the perspective of the adults who know that child best?

“The relationship that is forged between a client and his or her therapist is an extraordinarily emotionally intimate and vulnerable one,” according to the The Ferentz Institute, which offers continuing education programs for therapists.

Which mother would be OK with her child secretly developing an emotionally intimate bond with an adult? A U.S. Department of Education study from 2004 reported that 10% of students experience sexual misconduct by a teacher. 

Schools’ disregard of parents may not stop with mental health treatment if a proposal on the Michigan ballot passes in November. Proposal 3 would amend Michigan’s constitution and may allow children to have an abortion or sterilizing transgender procedures without a parent’s consent.

Proponents of the ballot proposal say it would not conflict with state law, according to The Detroit News. Opponents say that since this is a constitutional amendment, it would negate state laws on parental consent. After all, the constitution trumps state law. Regardless of personal views on abortion or transgender treatments, what kind of parent want their child to undergo life-altering medical procedures without their knowledge?

So before the National School Board Association decides to write another memo asking for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate parents as violent terrorists, it should clean up its own camp.

If school officials want parents to stop questioning their authority at school, they must stop undermining parents’ authority and beliefs.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.