Iowa Statehouse Dome SquareCaffeinated Thoughts learned that last week the parental rights organization started by Michael Farris, ParentalRights.org, sent a letter to members of the Iowa House asking them to oppose SF 345.

Their letter by ParentalRights.org executive director James Bentley reads:

ParentalRights.org has serious concerns regarding the impact of SF 345 on Iowa’s families. We are concerned, first, that this bill would give authority to the state to monitor personal comments made by students via social media or electronic devices outside of school hours, when those students are under the care of their parents. We doubt the State would agree to such monitoring by the parents during the hours the child is in school, though it is the parents and not the State who are the primary care-giver for the child.

We are further concerned that the procedure for notifying parents of alleged victims or perpetrators of bullying can be excepted at the discretion of a single school official or the student himself. Such an exception without any measure of evidence required or judicial review eliminates the presumption that parents act in the best interest of their child and threatens a parent’s right to direct the education, upbringing, and care of their child.

Most especially, however, we are deeply concerned that Subsection 9(b) would grant to a school official authority over students who are not even enrolled in the public school – including home schooled students or students of private schools – if the student is accused of bullying. This authority comes into play whether or not any evidentiary standard is met to indicate that the accused is actually guilty of bullying, those allowing for an instance where an actual bully could falsely accuse his victim of bullying and let the school system do his bullying for him.

For these reasons, we urge you to OPPOSE Senate File 345 on anti-bullying procedures.

ParentalRights.org is the second national organization to oppose the bill after the Home School Legal Defense Association came out in opposition in light of its potential negative impact on homeschoolers.  This follows State Representative Josh Byrnes (R-Osage), one of the chief Republican supporters of the bill, telling an Ankeny parent that there was “nothing worse” than homeschoolers weighing in on bills like these.

Senate Democrats late last week injected this debate into the appropriations process by attaching the language of SF 345 to an appropriations bill that will be negotiated in conference committee.

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