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April 13, 2023 12:28 PM UTC

My Kids, You's Kids; Red Kids, Blue Kids

  • by: Colorado Pols

Testimony will be held today in the State Senate Health and Human Services Committee regarding HB23-1003 (“School Mental Health Assessment”), which has become another flashpoint for right-wing activists forever searching for their next grievance.

This legislation, which has already passed the State House, is riling up a group of “parents’ rights” advocacy groups that tend to view children more as property than responsibility. Parents’ rights groups turned out by the dozens to a rally last week at the State Capitol in which Republican House members — including Minority Leader Mike Lynch — decried the evils of HB23-1003 as a tool for the government to make mental health decisions about children that will eventually brainwash them into taking part in drag queen reading hour, or whatever. The rally didn’t do much to blunt the advancement of HB23-1003, but it did provide for at least one unintentionally-hilarious photo:

“My Kids is My Kids”


Before we get into the larger political point of all this, we should first explain what HB23-1003 REALLY does. The bill creates a free mental health screening program in public schools for grades 6-12. Parents would be given plenty of notice of the screening in advance, but children older than the age of 12 would be allowed to take part in the screening even if parents tried to opt out on their behalf. The point of this bill, obviously, is to provide information for kids who may need help dealing with mental health issues but don’t know where to turn for assistance. If a qualified professional is concerned about anything during the screening, the legislation directs that professional to contact the child’s parents to suggest next steps or potential treatment options.

That’s it. Kids aren’t going to be hypnotized and made to urinate in a litter box. The point here is just to say, ‘Hey, this kid seems to be struggling with mental health issues and might benefit from some further assistance.’

Parental rights! Also, give us money.

But groups like the Colorado Parent Advocacy Network have jumped on this benign legislation and used it to prop up another silly liberal bogeyman that they can also use to raise money for the organizers cause. It’s the same old right-wing MAGA grievance with different packaging.

The modern “parents’ rights” movement is part of a broader right-wing effort to anger and turn out voters over lazily-constructed arguments against things that may or may not even exist. Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin used “Critical Race Theory” fearmongering to win his election in 2021, and other Republican candidates across the country have since tried to replicate that approach with different degrees of success. In Colorado, for example, Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl veered off into “furries in schools” territory, a decision that moved her from “bad candidate” to “OMG WTF” status within a matter of weeks.

The “parents’ rights” movement may have begun with different intentions, but there’s no misunderstanding the point today. Republican politicians are using it to activate the same MAGA Republicans who helped Donald Trump sneak into the White House. Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis seems to think he can win the Presidency if he can just ban enough books before 2024. In Washington DC, House Republicans rammed through a nonsense parents’ rights bill a few weeks ago that is DOA in the Senate.

Meanwhile, HB23-1003 will almost certainly pass through the State Senate and move on to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis. Colorado children will then have a new resource to assist them in helping with mental health issues, and these “parents’ rights” groups will go in search of something else to yell about.

Colorado voters can rest easy knowing that Democrats are leading on important issues while Republicans just follow the grievance carnival.


10 thoughts on “My Kids, You’s Kids; Red Kids, Blue Kids

  1. Ah, there's the other shoe dropping.

    Whenever there's a school shooting, the GOP credo is, "It's a mental health issue." But when anyone brings up mental health…well, here we are.

    1. True enough, Qu, but the other shoe will really drop when they try this "kids is my property" stuff on the school boards they're running gunning to take over this fall. The only mental health resources that will be available to many Colorado kids will be encouragement to get right with Jesus.

  2. I'm pretty left … but even I am concerned about the public schools traveling way outside of their lane. The solution to every problem a child might have is not the responsibility of the taxpayer.

    It is a mixed message to encourage parents to be involved with their kids, but then deny parents the prerogative of making decisions for their children.

    I think we would be better off without this legislation.

    1. IP, the reality in schools is that there are too many needy kids per adult, and often, no defined channels for the kid to access help.

      For example, the average high school teacher has 125-150 students. In addition to teaching her content, math or English or whatever, she is also supposed to notice kids who seem depressed or delusional. The reality is that the kids who act out with bad behavior will get help soonest. Parents or guardians who advocate for their child are another “squeaking wheel” to access the mental health resources that the school has.

      About those resources: The average urban high school has 4-8 guidance counselors , each with a caseload of 200 kids or more. If the school is lucky, there is also a psychologist, a nurse, or parapro health aide, a speech therapist, a school resource officer, and a special education or reading specialist. Each of those adults will also have caseloads between 50-100 .

      So you are expecting the average depressed 13 year old to seek out an adult and professional help, rather than go to his/ her peers or parents, who may not be very helpful, for help dealing with emotions and life problems. Most will not do it. They will “tough it out”, or start using substances to deal with emotional pain, or act out and get started on the school-to-prison pipeline, especially if they have a disability, are male, and/or a person of color.

      That’s how mental health issues are (not) handled in schools today. Rural schools are slightly better because people know each other, but they have even fewer resources to tap.

      That’s why this legislation is needed. It gives students a safe way to cry for help and actually receive it in an appropriate way.

    2. IP, I agree that it is reasonable for a parent to be concerned about ceding mental healthcare decisions for their children to the schools. Having said that, what are the real problems that kids are dealing with in schools today? Not drag shows, not CRT, not discussions of gender or sexuality. Kids are dealing with suicide, depression, drug addiction, and anxiety.  Legislation that seeks to address these real problems seems worth a try, as opposed to fear-mongering about fairy tales (no pun intended).

    3. How is screening kids and then reporting to parents "traveling way outside of their lane." ?????

      I don't have kids, so can't speak from direct experience … but I do have some friends who are teachers and have stories of trying to describe the students in parent-teacher conferences.  None of them has extensive training in psychology or counseling.  I suspect many teachers would prefer to have some sort of relatively standardized psychological assessment to pass on.

      One of the teachers recently testified last week for the Senate:

      I am here today in support of SB 23-004 – The Employment of School Mental Health Professionals

      I stand before you this afternoon because 3 weeks ago, one of my students took her own life. She was 14 years old. As you can imagine, it broke the heart of everyone who knew and cared about her. Last Monday, when we returned from spring break,we had to tell the student body that she had passed away. She was in my 1st class of the day,and honestly, I didn’t know if I would make it through the first hour, let alone the whole day without bursting into tears.

      Unfortunately, this is not a novel experience for me. She was the third of my students to commit suicide since the beginning of the pandemic….

      How is getting more information to parents way outside their lane?


  3. Then there’s Grand Junction, where the District 51 school board nixed a health clinic for the under-construction Grand Junction High School. The clinic, to be operated at NO cost to the district by the community health center Marillac clinic, would have been similar to the currently operating one at Central High School. One wonders when the school board will get around to that one. Its reasoning, if you can call it that, is that the clinic stepped on parental rights.

    By the way, conservative Mesa County has lots of uninsured people, kids included, and high suicide rates.


    1. I recall very well the words of my father when hearing of a threat by a teacher or neighbor to one of my siblings or me. He would say, "No one is gonna beat my kids, but me". And he occasionally let his upbringing guide his use of that big, thick, belt. Corporal punishment was part of the culture in those days when kids were chattel, more so even than wives.  

      It appears to me this opposition to kids talking to teachers is a direct result of the interference and insistence of the Christian Patriarchy. The particulars are particularly convoluted and the reach of the "Church" is frightening, but the goal is obvious. 

      The Mesa county RWNJ Caucus wants to turn back the clock to those bad old days when there was nowhere for a child to turn… except inward.

  4. IP: This is basically community support for what school counselors have had to do alone for decades with completely unrealistic caseloads. Parents can opt-out if they don't want their kids screened. I just hope there are consequences for those parents when their little angel decides to shoot up a school.

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