Gov. Roy Cooper could soon be uncapping his veto pen yet again after the North Carolina General Assembly gave final approval to a Parents’ Bill of Rights on June 29.
Supporters say the measure is needed to protect children and ensure that parents have knowledge about what their kids are being taught in public schools. Opponents, on the other hand, claim the bill would create a discriminatory environment against LGBTQ youth.
The part of the bill that has drawn the most heated debate directs that issues like gender identity and sexual orientation may not be a part of the official curriculum until after fourth grade. There would be no ban on incidental discussion of the topic in lower grades, but official curriculum may not address those issues, under the bill.
While the measure was being debated in the House Rules Committee earlier on June 28, primary sponsor Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, referenced reports nationally and in North Carolina public schools that parents are not being informed of their child’s decision to change preferred pronouns.
“There is no policy against calling a parent if the child is pregnant. There is no policy against calling the parent if the child is doing drugs. There is no policy against calling the parents if the child is acting out in violent ways towards other children,” Galey said. “Of all the problems that a child can have, this is the only area that people are pushing to keep the information from the parents. I think that that is questionable to say the very least. If you have a child who is suicidal, if you have a child who has health problems, the first person who should be called and brought into the conversation is the parents.”
House Minority Leader Robert Rieves, D-Chatham, said the measure would lead to personnel leaving public schools that are already under-staffed.
“Just because you can do something does not mean you should do something. Just because you can steam roll doesn’t mean you should steam roll. Because what you do now teaches the next generation,” Rieves said.
During debate on the Senate side, Sen. Jim Perry, R-Lenoir, underscored that the bill does not ban discussion on these topics and only bars including it in the curriculum. “If you put it in the curriculum, you are engaging in a culture war,” he said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, a Republican, put out a statement in support of the bill as well.
“As a former public school teacher and parent of three, I see this legislation as key way to open lines of communication between schools and parents so that parents remain a primary part of the conversation regarding their child’s academic, health, and overall wellbeing,” Truitt said. “This bill is about empowering, equipping, and informing parents so they can determine how to best advocate for their child and will give them greater confidence in how their child is learning, growing and excelling in North Carolina’s public schools.”
More broadly speaking, S.B. 49 would affirm a set of parental rights, including the right to direct the education of their child and access to healthcare records. The measure also establishes a parent’s right to request information about what their child is learning in school, including lessons, textbooks, tutoring services, and other details about how their child and their school are operating.
Parents would additionally be informed of any health-care services their child receives, including any changes to their child’s physical or mental health, and whether their child requests a change in their name or pronouns.