In Washington, petitions for a ‘parents’ bill of rights’ ballot measure have been filed

Brian Heywood, the founder of Let’s Go Washington and the chief funder of the initiative to create a parents’ bill of rights, was seen in the above picture, meticulously checking boxes of petitions filed for the group’s measure to repeal a state climate law. (Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard)

An alliance of conservative groups took a significant step on Tuesday by submitting almost 425,000 signatures for an initiative aimed at ensuring parents have access to the materials their children are being taught in K-12 classrooms, as well as information about the medical services provided by public schools.

The proposed ballot measure, known as Initiative 2081, aims to establish a “parents’ bill of rights.” It seeks to empower parents in various aspects, including the ability to review textbooks and curriculum, access medical records, and have the option to exempt their child from assignments that touch on personal sexual experiences or religious beliefs of the family.

Supporters of the initiative made their way to the Secretary of State’s Office in Tumwater, delivering boxes filled with petitions at 1:30 p.m. This impressive effort collected a total of 423,399 signatures.

According to Brian Heywood, the hedge fund manager and founder of Let’s Go Washington, this initiative would not have been considered controversial just a few years ago. Heywood, who is also the chief financier of the signature-gathering effort, expresses his surprise at the current controversy surrounding the initiative.

In a statement, he emphasized the crucial role parents play in raising children. He highlighted the significant number of signatures gathered from various political backgrounds, indicating a shared desire to return to a sense of normalcy.

State Rep. Jim Walsh of Aberdeen, who also chairs the Washington State Republican Party, is the driving force behind this initiative. He has taken the lead as the prime sponsor, working in collaboration with Let’s Go Washington, Restore Washington, and other conservative political groups. Together, they have circulated not just this initiative, but also five others throughout the year.

In November, 418,399 signatures were submitted for Initiative 2117, which aims to repeal the Climate Commitment Act. The Secretary of State’s Office has announced that petitions for another measure concerning vehicle pursuits by police will be delivered on Thursday.

These measures collectively form a comprehensive strategy driven by Republicans to counter the major social, fiscal, and environmental policies that were approved by Democratic legislators and Governor Jay Inslee, despite strong opposition from GOP lawmakers.

Need or distraction?

Public schools have become a contentious arena in Washington and nationwide, with ongoing debates surrounding curricula concerning sexual health, race, COVID vaccinations, and gender identity. Initiative 2081 specifically targets these issues within public schools.

Parents would have the right to review educational materials and obtain academic and medical records without charge under this proposal. Additionally, the measure stipulates that parents should be given written notice and the opportunity to opt their child out of any surveys, assignments, questionnaires, or activities that involve inquiries about their child’s sexual experiences or attractions, as well as their family’s religious or political affiliations.

Parents will receive a notification if their child undergoes any medical treatment or is prescribed medication that may have financial implications.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction officials are currently studying the measure to assess its alignment with existing Washington law.

According to OSPI spokeswoman Katy Payne, the majority of the provisions in question seem to align with current legislation. However, further analysis is being conducted to ascertain whether the initiative contradicts any existing civil rights safeguards or determinations made by the Human Rights Commission.

Mark Gardner, a high school teacher in the Camas School District, believes that it is important to ensure that parents have a voice in their children’s education. However, he points out that the current state laws and school district policies already provide most of the rights and opportunities that parents are seeking.

He expressed his opinion that this seems like a diversion from our more pressing needs. According to him, state legislators should focus on increasing funding for the recruitment of support staff and paraeducators, as these professionals would greatly benefit our children.

In order to become certified, the petitions for Initiative 2081 must include the signatures of a minimum of 324,516 registered voters. State election officials advise that initiative sponsors should submit at least 405,000 signatures to compensate for any signatures that may be deemed invalid.

Once the Dec. 29 deadline for filing initiatives to the Legislature has passed, the process of certifying valid signatures will commence.

If the initiative has the necessary number of signatures, it will be presented to the Legislature. During the 2024 session, lawmakers have the option to adopt the initiative as it is. Alternatively, they can choose to reject it or not take any action. If they reject or fail to act on it, the initiative will then be placed on the November 2024 ballot.

Lawmakers also have the option to approve an alternative measure to be included on the ballot alongside the initiative.

A ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ ballot measure in Washington has seen petitions being filed, as reported by the Washington State Standard.

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