In April, Republican legislators and members of the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network (CPAN) held a rally at the Capitol in opposition to House Bill 23-1003, which would create a sixth through twelfth grade mental health assessment screening program administered by the state Department of Public Health & Environment.
While the rally was ostensibly about the bill, which gives rural and understaffed schools access to student mental health services and does allow children 12 and over to override a parent’s opt out from those resources, much of the rhetoric was directed towards supporting charter schools and attacking the LGBTQ community. Unable to prevent the passage of the bill in the Democrat-controlled legislature, opponents of HB1003 have taken their fight to school boards directly. On June 5, 9News reported that “a handful of rural, conservative school districts banded together to say they would opt out.”
9News identified Woodland Park and Garfield RE-2 as districts that have read resolutions in opposition to HB1003, but Colorado Springs School District 49 adopted a similar resolution on April 13. The 9News report asked, “The big question is, who wrote the resolution shared and copied by all these school districts?”
According to a May 15 Facebook post from Darcy Schoening in the “Moms For Liberty — El Paso County” Facebook group, the author is “The infamous attorney Brad Miller, who’s been working hard around the state to urge conservative boards to adopt common sense policies such as the Parental Bill of Rights, a HB23-1003 opt out, and a resolution to oppose the anti-capitalist teachers unions.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center this week named Moms for Liberty an “anti-government extremist entity,” along with several other so-called “parental rights” groups in its annual “Year in Hate & Extremism” report.
D49 has adopted both the HB1003 opt-out and the pro-capitalist resolution. Miller serves as counsel for both D49 and Woodland Park school districts, as well as a number of other districts across the state, usually with a conservative board majority that supports charter schools.
On April 7, Schoening announced that D49 was opting-out and claimed partial credit for the decision.
“Thank you to Brad Miller & the D49 Board for pushing forward a resolution to opt out of HB23-1003, a bill that once again assumes the State knows best. Parents know best, and we are done with the State’s overreach. Moms for Liberty is proud to have accomplished this with the Board. Thank you.”
The next day, Schoening posted that Woodland Park and Elizabeth School Districts would be opting out of HB1003. On April 24, Elizabeth school district considered a “Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” using a similar document in D49 as an example. Following that discussion, Miller spoke to the new board — three members resigned in March over “constant complaining about [critical race theory]” — regarding their interest to retain him as counsel.
“There are people who are detractors of the sort of things that we’re involved with, who suppose that somehow there’s some sort of lurking background, puppet Master support system because we actually are pretty energetic and do quite a lot of work in Colorado,” said Miller. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”
The concept of parents’ rights — which has replaced critical race theory as the conservative rallying cry at school board meetings in recent years — was popularized by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Christian organization that views children as property of their parents.
“Our nation was founded upon the traditions of Western civilization,” wrote founding president Michael Farris in a 2011 HSLDA newsletter. “This civilization was founded on the principles of the Word of God. God gives children to parents — not to the state, and not to doctors. In cases like this one, our legal system must remain steadfast in following the principle that God has delegated these kinds of decisions to parents, not to doctors, social workers, or courts.”