For Christian parents with children in American public schools, the efforts by secular progressives to indoctrinate students can seem overwhelming. But parents have a surprising variety of effective options to protect their children and exercise their God-given authority.
“We live in a country that still believes children belong to their parents and are not mere wards of the state,” says Travis Barham, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “Parents should not be bashful about asserting their responsibilities to raise their children in the admonition of the Lord.”
Understand the System
Nearly all decisions about school curricula are made on the local level. Attorney John B. Comegno II, a prominent national education law specialist based in New Jersey, explains that although public schools are required to follow certain standards typically established at the state level, the specific books, topics, lessons and methods are chosen at a local level.
Because of this, parents can have significant influence. “If you disagree with the policies or curriculum of your district,” Barham says, “you can get involved to lobby either the school board or your state representative to make those policies more amenable to Christian students. Parents double as taxpayers, so they have leverage. They can say, ‘Look, I’m paying for this curriculum.’” Recall that the Apostle Paul frequently appealed to his status as a Roman citizen when facing opposition.
Exercise Your Rights
In general, Comegno adds, parents have a right at all times to review curricula and fully understand the goals of the instruction their children receive. While children in public schools are expected to engage with the curriculum, parents have a right to express concerns and be heard. “The most effective way is to follow the chain of command,” he advises. “Start by expressing your concerns to the teacher in the classroom. If that’s not effective, move to the administration and finally to the local school board. Always remember the two P’s. Be polite and be persistent.”
R. Shannon Finnegan, an East Coast public school administrator, urges parents and all concerned citizens to attend school board meetings and to know the agenda beforehand. “Involve your church in a campaign to elect people with Christian values to the school board, or run yourself,” she says. “My job as an administrator and a Christian would be so much more effective if I had the support of more Christian parents.” At the very least, parents should meet early and often, in a friendly way, with the principal, teachers and coaches. Your concerns, when they arise, are more likely to be well-received if you have established a positive rapport.
Opt Out of Damaging Curricula
“Most states’ laws provide parents with an opportunity to opt out of sexual-education curricula,” says Britany Jones, policy manager for Family Policy Alliance. However, the worst content is often cloaked in innocent-sounding verbiage or seemingly unrelated courses. According to Barham, “In recent years, we have been seeing an explosion of cases where so-called anti-bullying programs are being used as a Trojan horse for promoting the normalization of homosexual or transgender practices, often as early as kindergarten.”
In Cumberland County, N.C., for example, the school board voted to implement a Planned Parenthood program called “Get Real,” which includes teaching sixth-graders about anal and oral sexual practices. When more than 100 concerned parents and citizens showed up to voice their concerns, the board voted to drop the entire curriculum.
“Even one parent makes a difference,” says Elizabeth Johnston, a blogger who calls herself The Activist Mommy. “I launched a Sex Ed Sit Out on April 23, 2018, to protest graphic and dangerous sex ed in our schools. It spread via the Internet into a global movement in four countries. Schools lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from all the students who sat out in protest. If one parent will simply show other parents (including non-Christians) what their children are learning, other parents will be outraged and join the movement. Never underestimate the power of one!”
Start a Faith-Based Club
Ask your school administrator how your child can start a faith-based club, which usually involves getting a faculty sponsor.
“The 1984 federal Equal Access Act ensures that if a school district allows any extra-curricular high school clubs on campus, they cannot prohibit a religious club,” Barham says. “If your school officials tell you that a religious club violates the separation of church and state, those officials don’t have a clue! Trying to stop a religious club because it’s religious—that’s a violation of the Constitution.” Barham urges parents to contact Alliance Defending Freedom if they run into such discrimination: “Call us. Often it only takes a strongly worded letter from one of our attorneys to get an administrator to realize the violation and make things right.”
Reconsider Your Options
Some educational researchers, such as Karen VanTil Gushta of D. James Kennedy Ministries and author of TheWar on Children, believe the best option for many parents is to reconsider Christian schools or homeschooling. “Why do so many millennials think socialism is OK?” she asks. “Look at what they’ve been learning in school. And look at what they have not been learning. They’re not learning anything about the faith of our Founding Fathers and the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of America. In addition, the number of young people leaving the church is astonishing. Most of these kids attend public school. How do we ignore that relationship?”
The good news for parents considering alternatives to public school is that many states now have need-based scholarship and grant programs to assist families with private and homeschool costs. “Every family situation is different, yet sometimes it’s a matter of asking yourself what sacrifices you can make in order to secure a Christian education for your children,” she says. “I urge people to go before the Lord and simply ask what is best for your family.” ©2018 Ginny Mooney
Ginny Mooney is a video producer, writer and mother of two students in public schools.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
Family Policy Alliance (familypolicyalliance.com)
Provides families with information about state laws regarding parents’ rights to review curriculum and opt out of sex-education and anti-bullying programs.
Activist Mommy (activistmommy.com)
Keeps parents informed about trends in education and ways to make a difference.
Alliance Defending Freedom (adflegal.org)
Takes religious liberty cases for Christians. The organization’s website has information for students, parents, teachers and coaches.
First Liberty Institute (firstliberty.org)
Takes religious liberty cases and has published a religious liberty protection kit for students and parents.