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Confusion over 'Parents' Bill of Rights' and what the new law could mean

House Bill 241 was passed by Florida lawmakers and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

TAMPA, Fla — It’s Florida’s new “Parents’ Bill of Rights” -- House bill 241 was passed by Florida lawmakers and is now awaiting the governor’s signature.

“It’s a great bill. It’s a great win for parents and Florida families,” said Bridget Ziegler, a member of the Sarasota County School Board who helped write portions of the original bill. 

She says it was designed to increase transparency and put all the state statutes governing parental rights in one place.

“For me, as a mother of three and also a member of the school board, I believe it’s so important that parents play a pivotal role and be the key decision-maker in major decisions on the health and well-being and education of their children.”

But last week, the heads of some of Florida’s major medical associations signed a letter to the Governor urging him to veto the bill.

Those who signed the letter warned if the bill is signed into law, “a physician who provides medical care to an injured child at an athletic event without first receiving the written consent of a parent, who may not even be at the event, will be considered to have committed a crime."

They added that the possibility of criminal charges would likely keep most physicians from providing volunteer services at kids sporting events.

But could that be a misinterpretation of what the bill actually says?

“By law, if that was able to be done before “parents’ bill of rights” was approved it’s still in place today,” said Ziegler.

Katherine Drabiak is an associate professor at the USF College of Public Health specializing in health law.

“They’re concerned that it might somehow limit a physician’s ability to treat children in an emergency and that’s not the case,” said Drabiak.  “Actually, in the law, there’s already well-settled exceptions for if children have some type of emergency, that physicians can treat them without parental consent.”

In non-emergency cases, physicians almost always need to get parental consent before treating a patient, but Zeigler says that’s nothing new. 

She says the law does more to re-affirm and educate parents leaving existing laws unchanged.

“I’ve already seen school districts in other counties that there’s a little bit of a panic that they may have to do things differently and I think that’s just a testament to how important this bill was.”

Click here to read the full bill.

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