Senate Bill 49, Parents’ Bill of Rights, is being discussed right now at the North Carolina legislature and has brought out very passionate views, since it touches on topics like public education, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental health, and people’s children. Many of those strong opinions being expressed are from parties one would hope to be neutral on such questions — like teachers’ groups and the mainstream media.
Maybe the most noteworthy comments came from Tamika Kelly, who is president of North Carolina’s quasi teachers union, the NCAE, which represents about 18% of teachers. Kelly said that parents and teachers were equally committed to children’s futures, and when bill-sponsor Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, said she “could not disagree with that more,” Kelly doubled down and responded that Galey was “absolutely wrong.”
As a father of young kids, I couldn’t help but push back against the idea that any of my kids’ future teachers would be as committed to their futures as I am. So then Kelly and I got into a bit of a back-and-forth. She apparently got caught up on my understanding that class periods are about an hour a day, rather than my main point about parents commitment being far greater and for far longer.
But Kelly was not alone in her out-of-step response to the bill, as mainstream, unbiased news sources could hardly hide their hate for the bill.
The Associated Press brought in “the experts,” which is always fun on deeply divisive ethical questions.
WRAL, in their morning newsletter, broke the important news that some people “dislike it.” It could have just as easily said, “We dislike it.”
And the News & Observer’s story on the bill started with “Medical experts and parents on Thursday spoke out against a controversial bill in the North Carolina General Assembly, arguing it would harm LGBTQ children and families.”
Again with the experts. It’s about as meaningful as saying, “Fortune-telling experts dispute weather forecast.”
Based on all that, you’d think this thing must be ridiculous, or at least controversial, right? Not really. In polling by the aforementioned WRAL last year, 58% want this kind of ban on “teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity” in younger grades, with only 23% opposing such a law (most of those being on college campuses and in the media). That’s twice as many (plus an additional 12% for good measure) in favor over those opposed. “Controversial.”
In addition to precluding the teaching of the latest sexual theories to early elementary students, the bill also requires that schools inform parents if, you know, their child suddenly goes by a different name or gender. To most people, that seems like the bare minimum a school should do if school employees have a discussion with a child struggling with their identity. But apparently teachers love these kids just as much, so parents don’t really have a claim to this knowledge.
Also, those opposed to parents’ rights wonder, what if those parents don’t immediately affirm whatever the student now identifies as? A lot of parents are just confused when their child, who had been a typical boy or girl until high school, suddenly says they are “grey gender” and use an emoji for their pronouns. You can find countless examples online of the growing list of genders and pronouns. But parents are immediately bigots for asking questions about the child they, not the teachers and school counselors, have raised from an infant?
This bill just seeks to spell out clearly the boundaries in the roles of the school, child, and parents, especially around issues like mental health and sexuality. A look at recent stories suggests this is not just a way to empower old-fashioned parents to push back against the proliferation of confusion in these areas (although, that would not be a bad thing). It is literally a life or death matter for many families.
In neighboring Virginia, the legislature is discussion a bill called Sage’s Law, named after a girl who had briefly identified as a boy, a fact which the school withheld from her parents. What happened next is beyond tragic. The parents were kept out of the loop entirely by legal authorities as the girl was sex trafficked then kept in a male-only foster home, where she was abused again. The courts wouldn’t let the parents see her during this time and wouldn’t even deliver their letters, partly because school counselors testified that the parents did not use the male name and pronouns the school had helped create for Sage.
Watch the video below for the full story.
But this is not the only recent story of this kind. A mother in California, Abby Martinez, an immigrant from El Salvador who was not familiar with America’s language let alone its views on gender, said her 15 year old daughter, Yaeli, was guided by her school into living as a boy. Yaeli had been a “girly girl” her whole childhood, but became deeply depressed and began cutting herself when her parents couldn’t reconcile.
The school counselor suggested she might actually be a boy and encouraged her to transition. Martinez was not told about the process by the school, and when she eventually found out and pushed back, the school worked with social workers to get Yaeli placed in a foster home. Martinez warned that her daughter’s extreme depression was not being considered in any of this and that she was in danger. Social workers told her Yaeli would be safer without her because she could fully transition in a supportive atmosphere.
Yaeli was then placed on testosterone and transitioned to be “Andrew.” But none of this cleared up the depression that she had felt since her parents’ separation, and she killed herself by placing herself in front of a moving train. The local school and social workers would not apologize to Abby for their role in the loss of her daughter.
Are these common stories? It’s unclear. But many parents across the country are deeply worried about their children, as a mental health crisis hits adolescents, and want to ensure they’re included in any important discussions or decisions regarding these matters. A recently released youth mental-health assessment by the N.C. Division of Public Instruction and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of high schoolers who had seriously considered suicide had jumped from 16% in 2015 to 24% in 2021.
These numbers were being especially driven by LGBTQ students, with 15% of straight students but 49% of LGBTQ high school students in N.C. saying they’ve seriously considered suicide.
The “controversial” elements of the Parents’ Rights Bill simply require schools not teach lessons on matters of sexual ethics to young children and that they inform parents of major changes regarding their children (like what name or pronouns they are going by). That is the least schools owe to parents. The bill can be seen in its entirety below.