Parents in North Carolina report feeling increasingly concerned about the public schools’ efforts to usurp their parental authority on topics such as mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the teaching of controversial race and gender theories. 

The debate heated up over the summer as lawmakers in the General Assembly passed an anti-indoctrination bill — House Bill 324, Ensuring Dignity and Nondiscrimination in Schools — aimed at preventing teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another. That bill passed both chambers along party lines, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it. 

House lawmakers passed a bill meant to ensure that school districts — not state government — have sole discretion in passing mask mandates for classrooms. Meanwhile, parents have disrupted local school board meetings — in Buncombe County, for instance — over universal mark mandates. 

Other parents are upset because schools are bypassing their authority on COVID-19 vaccines. In Guilford County, one mother reported that her 14-year-old son on the football team was given a shot without parental consent. 

 “As parents and guardians became more engaged in the education of their children during the pandemic, they discovered that their schools enforced arbitrary rules, maintained counterproductive practices, and delivered politicized instruction,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. 

“Rather than using parental objections as an opportunity to reflect on the logic of existing arrangements, many school employees and school board members simply dismissed the legitimate concerns of families and bristled at anyone who dared to question their judgment.” 

Sounding off on CRT 

Sue Googe, who ran for the U.S. House in 2016 to represent the 4th Congressional District, says she has personal experience with indoctrination. She was born in communist China in the early 1970s and remembers being in school 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., away from her family.   

“I’m extra sensitive when someone wants to rewrite a curriculum to indoctrinate students,” she said. “Critical Race Theory is a sneaky way to cave in American society, because it will create a division and take advantage of racial differences and stir up a fight. In order to defeat a nation, you have to divide it. A united nation is difficult to defeat. A united nation will generally agree in history-pride and heritage-pride. But the goal is to divide them and make them ashamed of their heritage.” 

Natalya Androsova, a Wake County resident who emigrated from Russia 22 years ago, experienced indoctrination first-hand. Her daughter is a sophomore in the public school system, but Androsova pulled her out in August and opened a homeschool academy. Critical Race Theory was one reason.

“I grew up in the Soviet Union, and I have experience firsthand in indoctrination in communist propaganda,” Androsova told the Senate Education and Higher Education Committee in debate over the vetoed bill to ban indoctrination and discrimination in public schools. “It was everywhere, including in school curriculum, mostly language arts and social studies. Without noticing it, I became a product of this propaganda, truly believing the Communist Party was only good. I believed my teachers because I loved them, and I trusted them.” 

“I see the same pattern here in our public schools,” she told lawmakers. “Marxist ideology called Critical Race Theory is embedded in the curriculum and thought. As an aware parent, I cannot allow my child to absorb any of that ideology, because it destroys the dignity of the human beings.” 

Josie Barnhart, a mother from New Hanover County, has two children in public schools, one in pre-K and the other in first grade. She’s also a former public school elementary and middle school teacher. 

Barnhart worries schools are bypassing parents’ authority on decisions ranging from masking to the length of quarantining after exposure to the virus. In the New Hanover County system, students must be out of school for 14 days if exposed to the virus without wearing a mask. 

“That length of time outside of school used to be called truancy,” Barnhart said. “Now it’s just become standard protocol. The question is whether quarantining healthy kids outweighs the definite academic deficiencies when they’re out of the classroom for weeks at a time.” 

She prefers those parents be notified of COVID-19 exposures and given the right to make the final call on quarantining. 

“If schools realize that parents are not feeling heard and not have a voice, I know a lot of people who have pulled their kids from public school,” Barnhart said. “If they don’t start working through these problems, more and more public school funding will be lost as families look elsewhere.” 

Task force reveals bias 

Parental concerns have also been stoked by the results of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s task force, called Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students. F.A.C.T.S. first report documented some 500 submissions from parents. 

Most people who submitted their accounts asked not to be identified for fear of losing their jobs as teachers or counselors. Others, from parents or family members, expressed concern their children would be penalized for revealing teachers’ actions. 

One parent reported to the task force that both children’s teachers were using biased instruction and commentary. “My child’s freshman history class was told that if ‘you were white and Christian, you should be ashamed,’” the parent reported. “My child’s junior history class was told that, ‘It is possible that some Republicans could be good people.’” 

“This report should be required reading for anyone doubting the presence of critical race theory and social justice claptrap in North Carolina public schools,” said Stoops. “While the submissions are not indicative of the scope of the problem, it is undeniable there is a problem. I suspect that subsequent task force reports will add critical context to an issue of tremendous importance to families across the state.”