Litigants: It Takes Love and Discernment to Raise Kids. DC’s New Law Undermines Both.

Photo: Victor Booth and his family.

We sent reporter Dave Dentel to talk with Victor Booth and Shanita Williams, two parents who filed the DC lawsuit, asking them why halting the Minor Consent to Vaccination Act matters to them. This is what we learned:

Victor Booth wants his sons to be more than just the products of a system.

The District of Columbia resident and father knows he’s set the bar high if his two boys are going to develop into the independent, astute men he wants them to be. It will take vigilance, love, discipline—and an unflinching commitment to identify and resist outside influences that could prove deleterious. Which sometimes includes what they’re told at school.

“You’ve got to get them to think critically,” Victor insists.

Shanita Williams agrees. She is the single mother of four boys, two of whom are still in DC schools.

One of her chief wishes is that her sons learn to make decisions the way she does, by first determining what is true.

“I don’t just jump on the bandwagon if it doesn’t make sense,” she explained. “I have to question things and think about it.”

Victor and Shanita are among four sets of parents suing DC to overturn a new law that undermines parental rights.

Parental Rights Foundation spoke with them recently about their families and the things they value—a conversation that made it easy to understand why they find DC’s recently enacted minor-consent law more than just philosophically offensive.


At Home in DC

Victor and Shanita were born and raised in the district and have experienced the challenges and benefits that can arise while living in an urban area that also happens to be the nation’s capital.

Victor can trace his ancestry—including great-great-grandfather Moses Zacharia Booth and great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Oliver Booth—to DC’s Georgetown region in the 1840s.

“They were prominent members of the Black community in those days,” recalled Victor.

Included in stories about his forebears are tales of discrimination that sometimes took peculiar forms.

For example, though his ancestors were active in their local church, they were not permitted to be baptized within the sanctuary. Like many other DC Blacks, they partook of the sacrament by being immersed in the waters of Rock Creek, beneath the Q Street bridge.


Valuing Hard Work

Victor said he’s grateful for his upbringing in a different era, when there were government programs that benefited his family. A summer youth program sponsored by the city provided his first job at age 14. He would hand his wages to his mother to help with household expenses.

And though he and his wife Tasha have prospered, Victor said he wants to make sure his boys also value self-sufficiency and a strong work ethic.

For example, though his son Jalen is interested in studying marine biology, the 19-year-old is currently taking a free course in heating and air conditioning in hopes of developing a trade skill.

Victor also teaches his sons to cope with everyday tasks, by doing what he calls “the manhood training thing.”

Recently these lessons have involved Victor and his boys performing maintenance and repairs on a car the elder Booth bought from his cousin.


Striving to Overcome

Shanita said she’s also gratified to see an entrepreneurial spirit rising in her own sons.

Her two oldest—now in their 20s—are pursuing education and work. One has already completed his associate’s degree.

But Shanita admitted she’s a bit surprised at the independence displayed by her 15-year-old.

“He makes his own money,” she explained. “I never told him he has to go out and work.” And yet, she added, her son is always finding new ways to earn a dollar.

“He never asks for anything,” she said. When she inquires if there is anything he needs, “He says he’s good,” Shanita remarked.

She intimated that the stalwart nature she sees in her boys could reflect her own efforts to overcome challenges as a young mom—including taking her small children to class with her while she completed her bachelor’s degree.

“My professors got to know them,” Shanita recalled. “Life wasn’t easy, but we made it.”


Rewards of Learning

Each added that they also strive to convey to their children that life is more than labor, and that hard work does yield rewards.

Both families take advantage of many of DC’s amenities. Activities range from walks and bike rides to sampling museums of the Smithsonian Institute—and treats such as excursions to Hershey Park and the local hobby store.

These are more than family outings. As always, both Shanita and Victor encourage their kids to broaden their understanding and to hone their ability to analyze.

This scrutiny applies even when the boys are tackling schoolwork.


Subject Matter

Shanita noted her two younger sons have been doing school from home since early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed down in-person learning. The results have been mixed.

She said her 15-year-old found online lessons less distracting and made the honor roll.

On the other hand, Shanita added, “it was also an eye opener for what they were being taught.”

She ensured she was there to step in if her boys had questions or if their curriculum included something objectionable.

“I made sure that I was motivating my sons,” said Shanita. “I didn’t teach the subjects, but I challenged them and advocated for them if the subject didn’t make sense.”

She explained that she prefers empowering her sons to pursue subjects that especially interest them, because children’s natural curiosity can be a powerful motivator. She said she agrees with Walt Streightiff, who said, “There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”


Online and Off

Victor’s 12-year-old son Logan has also been doing online public and charter school during the pandemic.

He has been earning good grades, Victor noted, adding that Logan’s affinity with the digital world through things like games and animation have made him comfortable with online technology.

Victor admitted it’s a trend he occasionally resists. On some weekends, when his wife is traveling for business, Victor declares a digital moratorium. He switches off the television and urges his sons to tackle hands-on projects meant to stimulate their intellect and build creativity.

They read the newspaper, discuss books, build models—or race miniature cars on Victor’s 16-foot track.

“They always go kicking and screaming, but then they get into it,” said Victor. “There’s a lot of untapped talent in children when they come into this world,” he added. His job as a parent, Victor insisted, is to find ways to help his children develop that talent.


Making the Tough Choices

But until they reach the point where they can critically assess their options—especially when it comes to weighing risks—Victor said his boys will continue to need caring parents they can trust to make those tough decisions.

That’s why he opposes the DC minor consent law.

Shanita agreed.

“I’m accountable for these children,” she said of her sons. “Until I leave the face of the earth, I’m still going to be mom, and they’re still going to be coming to me for advice.”

For her younger boys, she added, that includes guiding them in medical decisions. This is the way it should be, because it is parents who know and love their children best.

“We’re not a perfect family,” concluded Shanita. “But if you meet my boys, you’re going to know that I was the one who guided them and helped them become strong young men.”

This is why the Parental Rights Foundation filed suit on behalf of Victor, Shanita, and two other families. Won’t you support our effort to protect these families with your most generous gift to the Parental Rights Foundation today?

Together, we will protect children by empowering good parents like Victor and Shanita to raise their children as they—and not disconnected government agents—see fit.


Michael Ramey
Executive Director