Home School Legal Defense Association is partnering with the Parental Rights Foundation (PRF) in hopes of overturning a new District of Columbia law that undermines the constitutional right of parents to guide their children’s medical decisions.

Though the law does not deal specifically with homeschooling, HSLDA is concerned that—if allowed to stand—it could erode one of the legal foundations for home education: parental rights.

“DC’s Minor Consent Act is a direct attack on parental rights,” said Jim Mason, who serves as president of PRF and leads HSLDA’s litigation team. “This legal principle has prompted American jurists again and again to affirm that it is parents who are primarily responsible for overseeing their children’s welfare and upbringing. This includes education.”

Mason and other HSLDA attorneys helped prepare a lawsuit filed on behalf of four DC parents who are challenging the law passed by the DC Council in November 2020. Children’s Health Defense, headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr, joined PRF in this lawsuit.

Circumventing Parents

As a PRF media release explained, the law “would allow a medical provider to administer vaccines to any child aged 11 or older if the medical provider decides the minor is mature enough to provide informed consent and if the vaccine is on the list of vaccines recommended by the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.”

The measure also states that neither parents nor their family’s physician are to be notified if a child chooses to be vaccinated—potentially bypassing important family medical history or even risking receiving duplicate vaccinations.

“This amounts to sneaking behind the backs of fit and loving parents,” said Mason. “And though this time it has to do with a certain kind of medical care, it’s easy to envision parents eventually being overruled in other areas—including homeschooling.”

We want to point out that HSLDA supports the right of parents to choose the kind of health care that best fits the needs of their child—whether that entails vaccinating or not.

Constitutional Rights

Mason added that HSLDA cannot allow the standing of parents under the Constitution to be undermined by ill-conceived laws such as this one.

Mason pointed out several cases in which similar laws aimed at restricting the options of parents in guiding their children’s education have been overturned.

In Pierce v Society of Sisters, for example, the Supreme Court struck down an Oregon statute requiring all children to attend public school, famously declaring that “the child is not the mere creature of the state.”

The court based its decision in part on the 14th Amendment, which implies protection for the liberty of parents to choose how their children are to be educated.

The PRF lawsuit asserts the DC Minor Consent Act also disregards the rights of parents under 14th Amendment and violates several federal laws.