Recently, the National Society for the Advancement of Black Americans (NSABA) created an opt-out form based on state law that allows Virginia parents to protect their children from any school curriculum they find discriminatory.
In an interview with the Noah Webster Educational Foundation, the president of NSABA, Paul Lott, explains why the form was necessary. Parents need to notify the school that they know their rights. They should give the form to the principal on day one, rather than waiting for a problem to arise.
Critical race theory could be an example of curricula that parents can decide to opt-out of for their children.
Critical race theory can be defined as an “intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour.” The teaching of critical race theory in schools has been a hotly debated topic amongst parents as some believe the concepts are divisive or indoctrinating.
However, the opt-out form intentionally excludes the words “critical race theory.” As Lott clarifies, the form is “crafted to address the ideas within critical race theory that most parents find objectionable.”
“The purpose of this opt-out is the parents exercising their right to opt their child out of something that they do not agree with,” Lott explains. You can download the form here.
Lott adds that the opt-out form is also a teaching tool for children. He encourages parents to educate their children on what the form means. Then, children know when to tell their parents about a violation or ask questions.
If a school doesn’t comply with the form, Lott says there’s a basis for a legal case. “These are rights legally given to Virginians,” he shares. “The strategy needs to be to notify them that you know your rights, what specifically you object to. And then if they don’t agree with that specifically, you can then take those complaints and put them into a court case that is more actionable.”
Lott believes that parents should not have to co-parent with the state, including public schools. “The schools are supposed to teach them how to think critically, expose them to a broad range of ideas,” he says. “It is not the role of the government to push any particular ideology in schools. It’s reading, writing, [and] arithmetic.”
The NSABA has examined test court cases to see how other states might institute a similar opt-out form. In the past, some court cases have been thrown out because they’re too broad. Using this Virginia opt-out form is a new strategy but it’s based on a Supreme Court ruling.
Lott told us about a Virginia couple’s 2013 court case. They started out as a couple, but the father served as the sperm donor. Although the romantic relationship was over, he stayed in the child’s life and pursued parental rights. At that time, a Virginia statute prevented sperm donors from having any rights to their children. The case later came before the Supreme Court, which ruled that it was unconstitutional for any state to overrule a parent’s fundamental rights to their children. Virginia updated its statute based on the ruling. And that’s where the opt-out form comes from.
Lott says that any Virginian who completes the form needs to contact the NSABA if there are violations. The NSABA will keep track of the information. He says that “whatever district we need to bring a lawsuit, we’re going to bring a lawsuit.”
He explains that parents’ rights are being ignored across the nation, which is why action is needed. While it’s starting in Virginia, the NSABA has been working on similar initiatives in Oregon, Pennsylvania, Maryland, California, and New York. He says they need local volunteers from each state to distribute the information. In the meantime, the NSABA is updating its site so people can sign up or report any violations.
The NSABA will also work to create every state’s form and the instructions, but boots are needed on the ground. Lott says that if people want to get involved or have any questions, they can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here at NWEF, we believe it is the right of parents to decide what should be taught to their children. However, most teachers and administrators want what’s best for their students. Keep the faculty accountable, but don’t assume they’re out to get your kids. Make sure you do your research and talk with your children to know what is being taught in the school.
If you have concerns, school board meetings are a great place to voice them. Asking respectful questions and assuming good intentions can go a long way. The bottom line is, your involvement—even if your school is doing a great job—will make all the difference.