UC Law Journal


David Fisher


In a series of cases in the 1920s, the Supreme Court affirmed a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Since that time, however, the judiciary's support for parental rights has become much more ambiguous. As a result, in recent years, the religious right has taken parental rights on as one of its central policy issues - introducing bills and state constitutional amendments in twenty-eight states as well as a bill in Congress, all designed to strengthen the hand of parents against state assertion of authority on behalf of their children.

This Note traces the constitutional history of parental rights and investigates whether current precedent really supports a fundamental due process right of parents to control their children. It compares the absolutist stance of the parental rights reformers, with the interventionist approach of a number of legal scholars addressing the issue, using sex education as an example for examining the different approaches. It concludes that parental rights should be recognized within the context of the right to intimate association under current Supreme Court precedent, but that this protection should only extend to state intervention threatening the nature of the relationship between parents and children, and cannot extinguish the rights of children.

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