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Maine GOP push for several bills aimed at parents monitoring school curriculum and materials

The State House is seen at dawn during the final week of winter, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
The State House is seen at dawn during the final week of winter, Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Augusta, Maine.

Maine GOP lawmakers are pushing for a slew of new policies adding more monitoring of school curriculum, books, and changes in students' health care.

Some of the measures heard by the legislature's education committee on Thursday would require schools to share information on their instructional materials, curriculum and professional development.

Another, from Republican Sen. Lisa Keim of Dixfield, would say that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions on their children's education and upbringing, and it would require schools to notify parents of any changes in students' health care services.

Keim said the bill is a response to recent parent outcry across the country over school practices and curriculum.

"There is one overarching reason parents are standing up. It's because schools have gone too far in shifting the decision-making power dynamic. Taking control away from parents and giving it to the education bureaucracy," Keim said.

But Mary Bonauto, with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said she worried that the measure could erode the rights of young people to seek out counseling and health care, and would open up questions about what would require parental notification.

"It is not clear what a health care service is. Is a coach saying, 'Hey, you seem down today. How are you doing?" a health care service? Because now there's going to be a concern because, oops, I shouldn't have asked how someone is doing, if they were going to reveal something that looks like counseling," Bonauto said.

"It's really a destabilizing agent in schools, vis-à-vis, the relationships between the young people and the people they count on there."

Several education groups also pushed back on some of the measures, saying that they already put in a substantial effort to work with parents on their children's education. They also noted that many districts are already providing public listings of curricula and school materials.

The bills come amid of a wave of GOP legislation across the country attempting to monitor or further regulate school curriculum and materials.