Poland’s lower house of parliament has passed a bill by the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party that would step up government control of schools, which critics say could curb access to teaching on LGBT and reproductive rights.
The bill passed on Thursday with 227 votes in favour and 214 against, and will now move to the senate.
The PiS says changes are needed to protect children, but opponents argue they are part of a wider effort to eliminate liberal values from public life.
They warn the law would limit parents’ rights to decide on their children’s education, and leave school administrators with their hands tied.
Under the new law, extracurricular activities run by non-governmental organisations in schools will need to be approved by a government-appointed supervisor. The law would also make it easier to fire school principals.
The education minister, Przemysław Czarnek, has said supervisors should have the right to block any programming that would be “a threat to the morality of children”, in particular when it comes to sexual education.
Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bąk, a leftwing lawmaker, said on Twitter that instead of tackling depression or extreme poverty among Polish children, Czarnek was working “on the politicization of Polish schools”.
Since coming into power in 2015, the nationalist government has introduced a series of education reforms, claiming the need to defend traditional Christian values and teach children to be proud of Polish history.
The bill faces rejection in the opposition-dominated senate, in which case it would return to the lower house of parliament for another vote and if approved would go directly to the president, Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally. An aide to Duda said on Thursday the president would soon meet Czarnek to discuss the issue.