Educators discuss parental rights, school boards

The Montana Office of Public Instruction hosted a virtual school law conference Tuesday discussing parental rights in education settings.  

The conference, themed “Your Rights and Responsibilities,” included speakers from Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s office and professors from the University of Montana, University of Kansas and Kentucky State University, among others.

Educators, administrators and community members from across the state participated. Many of the topics reflected ongoing conversations that are consuming school boards across the country in terms of how parental rights intersect with mask and vaccine requirements.

Anthony Johnstone, the Helen and David Mason Professor of Law and affiliated professor of public administration at the University of Montana, focused his discussion on preserving parental rights.

“So what are we talking about when we talk about parental rights?” Johnstone asked. “Well, it actually goes back not to the founding of the country, but to Reconstruction after the Civil War.”

Johnstone explained that the idea of parental rights initially came about as a function of emancipation.

“It’s very hard to understand our Constitution without understanding the country’s history of slavery and our response to eliminate slavery,” Johnstone said.

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