The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board unanimously voted not to comply with North Carolina’s new Parents’ Bill of Rights last week citing moral conflicts, but legal experts are cautioning of the potential ‘chaos’ that could come from disregarding state laws.
North Carolina’s Parents’ Bill of Rights law passed in 2023 after the Republican supermajority voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Part of the new law requires schools to notify parents if a student changes their name or pronouns, and it also prohibits the discussion of gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality in kindergarten through fourth grade.
The two rules have become contentious points for some of the state’s largest school districts, with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board publicly dismissing the laws.
During the board’s public testimony, several high school students urged officials to reject the Parents’ Bill of Rights. One young woman said kindergarten through fourth grade are “crucial developmental stages for children’s brains, where they start to evaluate themselves and the people around them.” Another student said “there is no argument to be made that gender identity is any less important than a core class when it holds such a valuable piece of today’s societal puzzle.”
Board Chair George Griffin said the law is “just morally wrong, and we’re not going to do it this way.” He argued that someone needs to “stand up for what is right.” Thus, the board decided to allow classroom instruction about gender identity and sexuality in grades kindergarten through fourth grade, breaking with the Parents’ Bill of Rights. The board is also looking to school administrators when it comes to handling pronoun and name changes instead of looking to the state’s guidelines.
Lawmakers promptly noted that the school district’s move is illegal.
Challenging the board, Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry, R–Lenoir, argued that law is foundational to a functioning civilization.
“Law is the foundation that provides order and allows us to coexist together as a society. Disregard for law leads to anarchy,” he wrote.
North Carolina school board officials took an oath of office to uphold the laws passed by the legislators under Article VI of the state Constitution. Elected or appointed officials swear to “support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of North Carolina not inconsistent therewith.”
Bob Luebke, the director of the Center for Effective Education, called Griffin’s comments ‘deeply troubling,’ clarifying that personal opinions are not above the law.
“Does Mr. Griffin believe he has a right to violate that oath because he needs to ‘stand up for what’s right’? Would Mr. Griffin agree it’s OK for parents or teachers to stand up and call out textbooks as ‘morally wrong’ and say ‘we’re not going to do it this way’? Conflating the rule of law to individual preference offers a quick trip to chaos,” Luebke warned.
Luebke said he expects the board’s policy to not only be challenged but also to fail in a legal battle. As a candidate for attorney general, U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) forewarned on X that if he’s elected to office, officials who “think they’re above the law are going to find out.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt fired back at the board, calling the illegal decision ‘unacceptable.’
The board will vote on the matter again in an upcoming meeting.