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Florida's new education law sparks controversy

Many Florida parents take an active role in their children's education. This may mean helping them with homework, meeting with their teachers and reading with them. Some may even volunteer in their children's classrooms. Few people question that this interest in education is a positive factor in the success of children. However, a new education law gives parents and others in the state even more say in the classroom.

Florida recently passed a law allowing residents to file complaints about the lessons presented in public schools. School districts are required to post online any new material they intend to use in the classrooms. Citizens may also review text books by grade level.

Residents who take offense to any of the selected curriculum may file petitions with the school board, explaining their objections. A hearing officer will then review the complaints and recommend a course of action to the school board, which makes the final decision on the matter. Some protest that these extra steps are unnecessary since citizens can, at any time, present their concerns in the open forum segment of any school board meeting.

Critics also fear the law will give voice to fringe groups whose ideology may affect controversial topics such as evolution and climate change. Proponents of the Florida law applaud the opportunity for parents to have more influence over their children's education. Conservative organizations lobbied for the law as a way to ensure controversial views are presented in a balanced manner.

Disputes over curriculum matters and the teaching of controversial topics is nothing new. It is not uncommon for matters of education law to end up in court when a teacher decides to impart his or her own views to students or a parent makes unreasonable demands. Those in such circumstances find the assistance of an attorney most beneficial.

Source: wmfe.org, "Education Desk: A Look At Florida's Textbook Law", Cathy Carter, Dec. 14, 2017

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