Parental-Rights Extremism

We know that children benefit when they have the chance to explore different ideas, make their own decisions, and be their own people. But there’s a movement sweeping through the U.S. that’s trying to prevent children from doing any of those things. At CRHE, we call that movement “parental-rights extremism.”

What is parental-rights extremism?

Parental-rights extremism is the belief that parents have the absolute right to control every aspect of their child’s life. That includes every aspect of what information their child learns, what resources their child accesses, and how their child expresses themself. Parental-rights extremism is the driving force behind policies that ban books, punish LGBTQ+ children for expressing themselves, and deny children access to health care. In courthouses across the country, this movement is gaining traction through legislation with names like “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” “Family Rights and Responsibilities Act,” and “Children’s Innocence Protection Act.” While bills like these may seem to be about protecting children, they do the exact opposite. This legislation — and the parental-rights extremism behind it — are based on outright lies about what’s happening in schools, libraries, and doctor’s offices across our country.

Parental-rights extremism may have entered the public discourse a few years ago, but at CRHE, it’s been on our radar since our founding. 

Why? Because as homeschool alumni, we grew up in a world where parents had total control over every aspect of our lives. The homeschool lobby created the parental-rights extremism movement. For decades, they’ve deregulated homeschooling, taking away all of homeschooled children’s protections from educational neglect, isolation, and abuse. This deregulation made it easy for these extremists to teach their children regressive ideas and misinformation. 

This strategy backfired for many homeschool alumni. Today, generations of homeschool alumni are facing the repercussions of their parents’ decisions, such as physical and mental health challenges, financial vulnerability, and lack of educational and professional opportunities.

Now, these parental-rights extremists aren’t just going after homeschooled children. They’re moving on to enact their ideas on society as a whole by passing laws and creating policies that enforce their own beliefs on all children. Like the belief that children shouldn’t be able to access healthcare with their parents’ permission. Or that children shouldn’t be able to read about race, puberty, or LGBTQ+ issues. Or that trans and non-binary children shouldn’t be able to play sports at school

As many of us were raised in these regressive belief systems, we at CRHE want to see a society that protects all children’s right to education, safety, independence, and autonomy — including homeschooled children. We are working to use our insider understanding of parental-rights extremism to prevent this ideology from harming more children. 

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