As if Arizona teachers’ shitty pay, long hours, and increased surveillance weren’t bad enough, along comes a bill that will allow parents to sue teachers, librarians, and other school staff for “usurping the fundamental right” of a parent. You might ask, “WTF does that even mean?” The language is left broad and ambiguous enough on purpose, so that any book or classroom discussion that “usurps” a parent’s beliefs, religion, or political persuasion could lead to a lawsuit. Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Sen. Christine Marsh, pointed out that anything parents don’t like could be grist for a lawsuit:
“Anything could potentially qualify for it so we might have a whole bunch of teachers going to court for this,” she said.
As one Democratic lawmaker said, a librarian could be sued “for recommending readings that conflict with a parent’s worldview.” No gay Walt Whitman for my kid! No book with a four-letter word or even a hint of religious doubt! Don’t even mention Marx in economics class!
The legislation’s real intent is to purge any discussion of gender. The bill started as another LGBTQ clampdown, written by some of the most virulently homophobic political organizations in the state, and in its earliest version the bill required educators to “out” students to their parents if a student confided to the teacher that they’re LGBTQ (happened to me more than once). That despicable language was removed but the intent remains: teachers can’t “usurp” a parent’s beliefs, which is code for keep your books and discussion straight, white, and Christian.
Arizona ranks near the bottom in teacher pay, and another new bill will require teachers to post their course materials and curricula on-line. And here I thought it was bad enough 40 years ago when I had to submit my lesson plans to the principal! It’s no wonder there are thousands of open positions that districts can’t fill, which leads them to hire people who lack the appropriate credentials, to the point nearly half of Arizona teachers are not credentialed (the legislature had to pass a bill to allow for that). This new law will only exacerbate the flight of good teachers from the classroom, and the real victims are the students—and of course public education.
The bill now goes to Gov. Ducey, who never saw a piece of homophobic legislation he did not like, so no one is betting he won’t sign it. The haters will high-five one another at the Capitol—for undermining education and harming students even more.