On Tuesday, legislative Democrats held a press conference introducing “The Parents’ and Students’ Bill of Rights.” The Democrats’ bill was filed after Republicans filed the Parents’ Bill of Rights, scheduled to be considered on the N.C. Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.
The Republicans’ bill was filed last week and has already passed through committees. Republicans say their bill would give parents more control over the direction of their child’s education and require more transparency in public schools.
Democrats and progressive advocacy groups are critical of Republican lawmakers’ bill, claiming it is unnecessary given that parents already have most of the rights listed.
Still, Democrat members filed “The Parents’ and Students’ Bill of Rights” on Monday, which does not expand any new rights to parents. The Democrat’s bill lists 10 rights for parents, all of which are already parental rights in North Carolina, and 14 rights for students. The bill does not contain any provisions regarding sexual material or gender identity in elementary school classrooms.
The bill enumerates the right for parents to sit in on classroom discussions “so long as it is within reasonable limits set by the local school administrative unit.”
Legislative Democrats filed identical bills in both the Senate and House chambers. Sen. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 74, while Rep. Vernetta Alston, D-Durham, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 58.
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Alston, a lesbian parent, said, “House Bill 58 and Senate Bill 74 support every parent’s ability to nurture and protect their child, and these bills support safe and fair educational environments for every student in North Carolina.”
Garrett called the Democrat version a “thoughtful” alternative and said Republicans should address school safety and mental health. He also accused Republicans of caring “more about amassing power and control than about governing and improving our state.”
Last week, Senate Democrats and the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) claimed that the Republican Parents’ Bill of Rights was unnecessary.
“Many of the provisions provided in this bill aren’t even necessary because they include rights that parents already have,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the NCAE.
Brent Woodcox, a staffer for Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, called out the irony in Democrats filing a bill enumerating parental rights after calling the Republican bill unnecessary last week.
The Republican version of the bill would allow more parental oversight of materials and would require parents to be notified if their child wants to be called by a different name or new pronouns in school. The Republican bill grants parents the following rights:
Under the Democrats’ bill, it appears students have the right to organize in similar ways as a union. Students can “organize, and have the opportunity to organize, themselves and be represented by their peers in important school decision-making processes.”
“Under this bill, first graders would have the right to unionize. This is not a serious piece of legislation,” said Joel Gillison, a staffer for Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus.
WRAL started framing the Republicans’ Parents’ Bill of Rights as a “controversial LGBTQ bill,” similar to the way Democratic legislators have presented the legislation.
Randy Brechbiel, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans pointed out that the Democrat’s version does not mention parents a single time outside of the bill’s title. The Republican version mentions “parent” 130 times. “If Democrats want to support parental rights in education, they can cast a vote for Senate Bill 49,” he said.
The Senate is expected to discuss and vote on the bill Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.