A recent Heritage Foundation report raises concerns about K-12 school transgender policies that exclude parental input. The report questions state and local policies that abridge the fundamental rights of parents to direct the upbringing of their children, a pressing issue in North Carolina as the battle continues over implementing the Parents Bill of Rights.

Released June 12, the Heritage Foundation notes that the US Supreme Court has long recognized parents’ fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. This foundational principle is being challenged by current school transgender policies.

Many school districts prioritize children’s gender-related choices while actively excluding parents from knowing or participating in those choices, the report found, and this exclusion is seen as a significant overreach by public schools.

As of May 22, 2024, the database maintained by Parents Defending Education lists 1,062 public school districts in 38 states and the District of Columbia with written policies that authorize or require withholding gender-related information from parents. These districts include 18,658 schools attended by nearly 11 million students.

Moreover, a June 2022 report by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law found that the percentage of individuals identifying as transgender who are between 13 and 17 years of age nearly doubled in just five years. By 2022, minors were nearly five times more likely than adults to identify as transgender.

As noted by the Heritage report, there have been conflicting federal court opinions on parents’ right to know about their child’s desire to transition, which highlight the legal complexities surrounding this issue. For instance, some court cases, such as Willey v. Sweetwater Cnty. Sch. Dist. No. 1 Bd. of Trustees and Ricard v. USD 475 Geary Cnty., support parents’ right to know. Other cases, like Regino v. Staley, argue against this right.

These issues have been a flashpoint in North Carolina in recent years. Passed in 2023, the Parents Bill of Rights grants the right for parents to request information about what their child is learning in school, including lessons, textbooks, tutoring services, and other details. The new law stipulates that “instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality shall not be included in the curriculum provided in grades kindergarten through fourth grade, regardless of whether the information is provided by school personnel or third parties.”

In the current legislative session, lawmakers could take up a measure, House Bill 1032, that would require lesson plans be posted online no later than 10 days after the lessons are handed out. The bill defines a lesson plan as including the “names of all instructional and supplemental materials used by the school,” “any other course materials used in the course,” and any materials “created by the teacher with the teacher identified as the author.”