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By Collin Breaux
Opposition to mask and vaccine requirements for students, allegations of critical race theory being taught in K-12 schools, and other controversial educational discussions are continuing in South Orange County—this time from State Assemblymember Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel).
Davies held a news conference at her San Juan Capistrano office on Monday, Feb. 7, to express her opposition to school pandemic restrictions and discuss her newly introduced legislation, the California Parents’ Bill of Rights Act.
“We are here to fight for the rights of our children,” Davies said. “During these last two years, Sacramento politicians have ignored the needs of our children and used our kids as a political pawn. As a result, our children are suffering. They have been forced to endure many unnecessary challenges.”
Davies’ new measure, Assembly Bill 1785, calls for parents to be able to “advise on the moral or religious training of their minor child,” by requiring schools to give parents more opportunities to be involved in their children’s education.
According to the bill, school districts would be required to provide parents an opportunity each quarter to learn about their child’s coursework, “including the source of any supplemental educational materials.”
AB 1785 also calls for districts to inform parents and guardians in advance of any teachings related to comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education, as well as the procedure that would enable their child to opt out of that education.
Language in the legislation also proposes a requirement for districts to send out an annual newsletter for parents to learn about the nature and purpose of clubs and activities offered at their child’s school.
Though AB 1785 does not mention masks or vaccines, Davies addressed those topics at Monday’s news conference. Davies said her office has fought “damaging policies” and will continue to oppose all student mask and vaccine mandates.
The general consensus among medical experts is that masks and vaccines are effective tools to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Masks have been required indoors for students and adults on school campuses throughout the pandemic by the California Department of Public Health. Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for a vaccine requirement for students once the Food and Drug Administration fully approves all COVID-19 vaccines.
Additionally, State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) has introduced legislation, the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, that would also require students be vaccinated to continue attending classes in person.
Davies said she sent a letter to Orange County Health Officer Clayton Chau urging the removal of all mask mandates on Feb. 15, concurrent with the upcoming expiration of the current statewide indoor mask mandate.
Davies further said parents should be told about different educational opportunities available for their kids, should be allowed to view their child’s academic records at any time, and be able to review course materials taught to children in advance.
“Too often, state regulations make it hard to transfer students from poor-performing schools,” Davies said. “Even worse, some districts don’t even tell parents all the hoops they have to jump through just to begin the transfer process.”
Orange County Board of Education member Mari Barke also spoke at the press conference in favor of AB 1785, advocating school and parental choice. No child should be constrained by their zip code, Barke said.
Barke also addressed critical race theory, which numerous local parents have said has been taught in K-12 schools and is detrimental. Two forums on CRT were held over the summer, Barke said. Education officials and experts, including in the Capistrano Unified School District, have denied CRT is being taught in schools and instead said cultural diversity and awareness is what’s being discussed with students.
“Even if we can’t have a say in what you’re learning, we want you to know what it is and educate you so you can take action,” Barke said.
The OCBE has been a vocal opponent of pandemic school restrictions as well, and previously sued the state over the restrictions, though without success.
CUSD Trustee Lisa Davis—who represents San Clemente on the CUSD Board and is a frequent voice against mask and vaccine requirements—further praised Davies’ legislation at the conference, also speaking against what she sees as a “biased curriculum” and “explicit sex education.”
All medical decisions for kids need to be made by parents, Davis said.
“We have to be vigilant as parents, as community members, in being aware of what’s happening and call out things that are not right,” Davis said.
AB 1785 may first be heard in a committee starting on March 6. It would need to be approved by both the State Assembly and Senate, and it would then need to be signed by the governor to become law.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.