Parents have the right and responsibility to raise their children, but there are a number of limitations on their control. The state has the task of providing for the general welfare of its citizens. To carry that out, it can establish reasonable laws regulating behavior and sometimes even overriding parental wishes. Below are some cases when parents and schools have come into conflict.
Children must attend school. The idea that the state’s interests in protecting children can override parental control is the basis for laws that prohibit child labor and require school attendance. It was not until the early 1900s that most states had enacted both compulsory school attendance laws and child labor laws to ensure that children were not working in the mills and factories rather than attending to their learning and development. And in the 1950s and 1960s, some southern states repealed their compulsory attendance laws as one step in thwarting desegregation. In 1980, the famous economist Milton Friedman argued that compulsory attendance laws were unnecessary and should be repealed. He said that such laws were an intrusion into parents’ rights to control their children, and parents should be free to choose to send their children to school. But the courts have held that the state has an interest in ensuring that all children participate in an educational system. They have found that education of all citizens is vital to the welfare of the state.
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