In just a few short days, it will be three years since my state, my town, and my local school district shut down and changed in ways I could have never expected. I was blessed to have a job that could be done anywhere, and that allowed me to be at home with my kids as we settled in for what we expected to be a few weeks of remote learning.
Those few weeks quickly stretched into months and altered not only the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year but the 2020-2021, and 2021-2022 school years. In those same time periods, I became active in my community advocating for in-person education. It started with social media interactions, which connected me to other parents who felt the same sense of desperation to course correct what would ultimately prove to be the single most negative impact on public education seen in our lifetime.
We rallied on the steps of our district administration building, started petitions that yielded almost a thousand signatures, held rallies with neighboring districts imploring our school boards and administrations to work with us to find a way back to the classroom full time in-person. We held town hall meetings featuring mental health and child development experts, we published district-provided academic data proving the rapid and precipitous decline of learning in our district, and we spoke at board meetings.
Remote learning not only proved to be a failure across the country, but it also further increased the educational disparity of children and students already marginalized by their socioeconomic status. Now picture a world where those of us with the means and resources to keep our children afloat, yelling at the top of our lungs for all children — especially those marginalized by socioeconomic factors — to be told that we are too privileged, the wrong ethnicity, and too negative to speak up for our community.
To have our public comments edited, or worse, cutoff at the microphone because we weren’t nice enough or complimentary enough or toxically positive enough. When ego exceeds common sense, when school districts use police officers to remove parents from public forums, and when parents are doxed for speaking out with their questions and concerns, we need a serious course correction.
When I took my oath in December 2021 as a School Director of the West Chester Area School District, I swore to uphold both the U.S. and Pennsylvania Constitutions. So, when I received an invitation from Speaker McCarthy’s office to come be a part of history in unveiling H.R. 5 — the Parents Bill of Rights — penned by Representative Julia Letlow (LA-05), a professional in education, I did not hesitate to say yes.
I was honored this past week to travel to Washington, D.C., with my two sons and two other families who have been by our side these three years. What better way to celebrate this moment than to have three moms and six of our children by our side, to witness history, while at the same time being validated for all that we have fought for.
“It doesn’t matter [what] the color of your skin [is] or your wealth, when you have a child that is the most important thing in your life… one thing we know in this country, education is the great equalizer. We want parents to feel empowered and that’s what we’re doing here,” said Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
And who can argue with that? Because when you come together for public schools that work needs to be inclusive of parents and not against them. One of the greatest leading indicators of student outcomes in education is parental involvement. And that is what the Parents Bill of Rights looks to fortify with its five pillars: 1) Parents have the right to know what their children are being taught; 2) Parents have the right to be heard; 3) Parents have the right to see the school budget and spending; 4) Parents have the right to protect their child’s privacy; and 5) Parents have the right to keep their children safe.
This is not just a Parents Bill of Rights, it’s a Students Bill of Rights to make the most of their public education. When you look at the span of a lifetime, our window of opportunity to help our children make the most of their K-12 experience is so small and fleeting. Every year counts. Every day counts.
To all the parents — whether you stood with us or not — know this bill is for each and every one of you and may it provide the cover of protection for you to speak up and speak out for your child. Because public education is too important for us not to be involved.
Stacey Whomsley is a mom of two boys and was elected to the West Chester Area School District Board in 2021. She lives in West Chester and serves constituents in Region 3.
One thought on “Stacey Whomsley: Why do we need a Parents Bill of Rights?”
Please be careful with legislation. We already have parents rights under the 14th amendment and also God given rights. The Parent’s Bill of Rights in NC actually allows for the state to step in and take the rights away from parents as it seems fit. The bill is in the article and it scares me to death. I hope we don’t legislate parents rights in PA because that’s one more freedom that we lose.