Late Tuesday evening, Senate Bill 90, previously known as the Searches of Student’s Person bill, was almost entirely revised and reintroduced in the House under the new name of the Children’s Law Omnibus bill.
While it keeps the short original bill’s provision of requiring searches on students done by same-sex school officials with the supervision of one adult witness, it adds a variety of other provisions that closely align with those in the Parents Bill of Rights, which Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed last week.
Some of the provisions included in S.B. 90 include:
- A requirement for notification to parents of a student’s search.
- The right of parents to request student reassignment to another school or local school administrative school unit.
- Requirements for education on human growth and development in grades four and five, and a requirement to provide additional notifications to parents on how to opt students in or out of education related to human growth and development and reproductive health and safety education.
- New procedures for the selection of both library books and instructional materials related to health and safety, a requirement for an instructional materials repository in each public school unit, and a requirement detailed syllabi to be made publicly available for all courses in public school units at the beginning of each semester.
- A requirement for public libraries to restrict access to materials harmful to minors, require parental consent for minors’ access to libraries and allow parents access to minors’ library records.
- A limit on the ability for minors to consent to mental health care except when the minor believes themselves to be a danger to themselves or others, and create a limited exception for examination of minors without parental consent when abuse or neglect was suspected.
- The right to appeal to a superior court for violations of the fundamental right to parent.
- Superintendent contracts would now require terms that allow for dismissal or reductions in salary after five successful claims of violations of the fundamental right to parent.
- A requirement for licensed school personnel to inform parents if they believe the child is at imminent risk of suicide or is self-identifying as a gender different from the student’s biological sex.
- Clarification that referring to and raising a juvenile in a manner consistent with the child’s biological sex, including related mental health or medical decisions, would not by itself be considered abuse or neglect.
- Classifying charter schools are not state actors, subject to certain confirmations related to the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System.
A more extensive summary of the bill can be read on the North Carolina General Assembly’s House Dashboard.
Five parent requirement for superintendent dismissal
Section 11 of SB 90, requiring superintendent contracts to allow for their dismissal given five affidavits from parents for violating the “fundamental right to parent,” has become the most controversial part of the bill.
Progressive think tank Carolina Forward tweeted inaccurately that “the proposed substitute would allow just five parents in the entire school district to force their local school board to fire the school superintendent”
Later in the twitter thread, Carolina Forward goes on to label the bill “a full-frontal assault on our schools’ basic ability to function, and would give the craziest fringe a heckler’s veto over them.”
The bill more accurately states that five affidavits will serve as enough grounds for termination of contract for superintendents, but not that the school board will necessarily need to do so. If five affidavits are filed, then it is up to the discretion of the school board on whether to fire the superintendent. For example, a school board may choose to reduce the salary of the superintendent after five affidavits are filed.
According to the bill’s summary, “The fundamental right to parent is the liberty of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of the parent’s child.” School may not infringe substantially on these rights without “without showing that the burden is required by a compelling governmental interest as applied to the parent and the child and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.”
In an interview with CJ, Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition which supports the bill, stated that she believes it will specifically help those worried about “obscenity in the schools and libraries as well as in the curriculums that promote indoctrination about gender ideology.”
“Parents across North Carolina are worried about obscenity and gender ideology being taught in public schools to their children,” Fitzgerald stated. “The provisions added to SB 90 would allow parents to enforce existing obscenity statutes against schools, would limit health and safety instruction (sex ed) to fourth and fifth grades, would allow parents to view curriculum and materials being used in the classroom online and in the school office, and would require that parents be notified if their child is exhibiting mental health issues at school, including gender dysphoria. Basically, the bill as amended would give parents more transparency and the ability to enforce their fundamental parental rights,”
Charters schools are no longer “state actors”
Section 16 of the bill has similarly raised concerns for it seemingly nullifying the effect of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ case involving a Brunswick County charter school’s dress code that requires girls to wear skirts. The court had ruled that because charter schools acted as “state actors,” they could no longer institute a restrictive dress code. The school had previously sought the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling, but the case was rejected.
S.B. 90 would make it so that the actions of charter schools would be considered the same as the actions of the private nonprofit corporation operating the charter school.
“Regardless of how we feel about the dress code mandating skirts for female students, it should concern us that a court would label charter schools ‘state actors,’” said Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. “That designation could subject charter schools to many more government rules and regulations. The loss of independence would help defeat the purpose of offering charters as a public alternative to traditional district schools.”
Originally S.B. 90 was set to be discussed in a public hearing Wednesday afternoon. However, according to Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, co-chair of the House Education Committee, the bill would not be discussed because some portions of the bill were still being worked on.
Torbett says that the bill is still being reviewed by the education committee members to measure its potential impact. Additionally, some parents have asked for more punitive action for school officials to be added to the bill to allow parents recourse for a school official’s actions and potentially a way to recover legal expenses if legal action is necessary.