November 15th was a big night for the Alaska chapter of Parent’s Rights in Education’s (PRIE). Gathered at the at Loussac Library, community members’ politicians, and parents joined PRIE’s First Annual Celebration to discuss a long overdue topic – parents’ rights.

Anchorage School Board candidate Mark Anthony Cox speaks during the Nov. 15 Parent’s Rights in Education event in Anchorage.

The idea of parental rights should be a foredrawn conclusion, and not one we need to defend. Unfortunately, parental involvement has suffered due to heavy work schedules and lack of communication from local schools. Monday night’s meeting, however, served as motivation and encouragement for parents to engaged with our public schools.

The meeting kicked off with Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson addressing the crowd.

After fondly remembering the days – not too long ago – when parents were highly involved in their children’s education, Bronson recognized the need for change in our current situation. Pointing to the recent elections and political movements in both Virginia and New Jersey, the mayor emphasized that change is still possible.

“At the end of the day it’s up to you folks – parents and the pastors and the civic leaders to take control of the school system, because the left certainly understands what it takes to take control of the society, and that’s to take control of the schools,” he said. “You only lose if you quit. You only lose if you decide not to show up.”

PRIE co-chairs Leigh Sloan and Sherry Smith spoke briefly about some of the group’s goals, as well as the importance of the movement.

It is parents who are ultimately responsible for instilling culture, morals, and values in their children. This is an essential right that must not be violated.

“Leigh and I are looking forward to making some positive changes in helping all parents, and to encompass as many parents as we can into advocating for their children’s education,” Smith said. “We’re shaping and molding the future of our community, so it’s very important that we all become engaged.”

Leigh is no stranger to the public education. A former public school teacher and now a homeschooling parent, she has seen both sides. At the heart of her speech, Sloan pointed out the lopsided nature of the public school system, where union-backed teachers have an amplified voice, while parents typically have no organized group to draw support from.

Without vocal advocacy, Sloan and many other parents believe parental rights are under siege – rights such as medical freedom, being able to provide meaningful input about school curriculum, or being informed and equipped to opt their children out of material or classes that they disagree with or believe should be taught at home. PRIE aims to protect all these rights and more.

“We are our kids’ first teachers,” Sloan emphasized. “We are the gatekeepers and there is no one that is going to love them like we do. There is no one that knows them like we do … We have the best interest of our children at heart.”

The evening included the introduction of a Parents’ Rights Proclamation, which states in part that “fairness and equality must be afforded to all students and families in the school district.” The entire proclamation is posted here.

The evening entailed noteworthy speakers including Anchorage Assembly candidates Stephanie Taylor and Kathy Henslee, along with Anchorage School Board candidate Mark Anthony Cox and Mat-Su School Board Members Jubliee Underwood and Tom Bergey. Also on hand were Anchorage School Board Member Dave Donley and State Senator Roger Holland.

Though PRIE has not endorsed any candidates, the group gives voice to those who support parental rights, and they are looking to give all upcoming candidates an opportunity to share their views on key topics. Several teachers and administrators were also in attendance.

As a current teacher and parent, attending this meeting gave me a renewed sense of hope for the future of public education. There is no better way to improve the educational outcomes and mental well-being of our children than to partner together as parents and teachers. Parents are the primarily teachers of their children.

While a school should be a safe and welcoming place for students, academics must be a school’s number one goal. It is parents who are ultimately responsible for instilling culture, morals, and values in their children. This is an essential right that must never be violated.

For more information about PRIE’S Alaska Chapter, sign up information, and future events by visiting PRIE Alaska.

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New group empowers Alaskans to exercise parental rights in public schools

Dawn Bockelman
Dawn Bockelman is an elementary school teacher, mother of two, and a lifelong Alaskan.