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Pasco schools won’t require parent permission for clubs

Parents and children need to make such decisions at home, superintendent Kurt Browning says.
Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning speaks during a Feb. 5, 2019, workshop. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Pasco County superintendent Kurt Browning speaks during a Feb. 5, 2019, workshop. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published Mar. 6, 2019

A parent request to require permission slips for children to participate in school clubs has fallen flat with the Pasco County School Board.

“We have nothing saying the parent cannot call the school and ask, ‘What club is my child in?’” board member Megan Harding said Tuesday during a policy workshop.

“Or to say, ‘I don’t want my child in that club,’” chairwoman Alison Crumbley added.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said that’s what he would prefer -- engaged parents who take an active interest in their children’s schooling. The district should not have to get involved in creating complicated procedures to monitor whether students are allowed to take part in activities, he said.

“Moms and dads have to have the conversations with their children at home about what they can and cannot do at school,” Browning said. “But I don’t think it’s an issue that quite honestly we need to address.”

The issue arose as an offshoot of community complaints about LGBTQ student rights and the clubs, such as the Gay Straight Alliance, that support those students. One mom urged the board to adopt a process similar to Lake or Marion county schools, which required parent permission slips for any student wanting to take part in any club.

Board members had concerns about mandating parent permission slips from the outset. They noted that it can be difficult to get some parents to submit emergency contact information in case their children get sick, and worried that a permission mandate would leave many children unable to get involved in school clubs.

It’s “essential,” Harding said, that parents stay involved and know what is happening in their children’s classrooms and schools. If they have concerns, she added, they first should contact the teachers and principals.

If they still need help, she added, parents are welcome to call her or other board members to offer guidance.

But the schools shouldn’t deciding whether children or shouldn’t be in a club or other extracurricular, Harding and others said.

“We’re academics, That’s our job. We’re going to let parents be parents,” she said.

The board also held firm in its stance to not change its rules relating to transgender student rights.

At least one parent thanked the board for its position, saying that LGBTQ students might need the support of a Gay-Straight Alliance club without their parents’ knowledge. Several students also praised the board for keeping school safe and welcoming for everyone.

Related coverage: Pasco School Board members grapple with parental consent for student clubs