State curriculum transparency laws
Your state may have a law guaranteeing your right to review curricula and teaching materials being used in your child's classroom. ELA reviewed these statutes and has provided them below.
Your school should be transparent with parents about the curricular materials, reading lists, and content presented to students by guest speakers regardless. Some schools have internal policies regarding curriculum transparency. Of course, you always may ask for the opportunity for that type of review.
Some schools may rely on copyright law in refusing parents access to teaching materials and documents used to develop those materials. That interpretation of the law is wrong for two reasons.
One is the well-established “First Sale Doctrine.” That doctrine provides that the copyright owner cannot prevent the recipient of a lawful copy of a copyrighted work from providing that work to others. Hotaling v. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 118 F.3d 199, 203 (4th Cir. 1997). In other words, the copyright owner’s rights in a copy end when that owner lawfully provides that copy to someone else. It is why public libraries can lend out books even though those books are still copyrighted.
In addition, the school can even make complete copies of those materials to give to parents under the copyright doctrine of “Fair Use.” The Fair Use Doctrine allows copying of copyrighted works as long as that copying is a “Fair Use.” In Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enterprises, 471 U.S. 539 (1985), the U.S. Supreme Court set out the factors for determining whether a use is “fair,” including:
1. Purpose of the use: a use for educational purposes, particularly where the user does not stand to profit from the copying, weighs heavily in favor of the copying being Fair Use.
2. Nature of the copyrighted work: there is a “greater need for the dissemination of factual works” like educational materials; this factor also weighs in favor of the copying being Fair Use.
3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used: although copying the entire portion may tend to weigh against a finding of Fair Use, the U.S. Court of Claims explained in Williams & Wilkins Co. v. U.S. that courts have widely rejected the notion that copying an entire work prevents the copying from being Fair Use, particularly in view of the other factors. 203 Ct. Cl. 74, 89 (Ct. Cls. 1973)
4. Effect on the market: because copying materials and providing them to parents does not reduce the market for the copyrighted work, this factor weighs heavily in favor of the copying being Fair Use.
As this caselaw demonstrates, refusals to provide these materials on ground of copyright have no legal basis.
California Code Title 2: Elementary and Secondary Education
Chapter 1.5 Parental Involvement, Article 1. General Provisions
Section 51101, Subcategory (a), Number (8)
Florida Statutes, Title XLVIII K-20 Education Code
Chapter 1002, Section 1002.20
Number (19), Subcategory (b) and (c)
Louisiana Statutes, Title 17 Education
Section RS 17:355 Parental Access to Instructional Materials
Minnesota Statutes 120-129c Education Code
Chapter 120B, Section 120B.20
Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Education
Chapter 4, Section 4.4 General Policies
Subcategory (d), Number (1)