By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 3, 2023
North Carolina parents have made it clear that they want more transparency from schools and more influence over what their children are being taught, and Republican lawmakers are trying, once again, to give them what they want with a new version of the Parents’ Bill of Rights.
In addition to banning curriculum about gender identity and sexuality in kindergarten through fourth grade, the new bill filed Tuesday by GOP senators Amy Galey (Alamance), Michael Lee (New Hanover) and Lisa Barnes (Franklin), would require schools to make textbooks and other teaching materials available for parents to review. And it would ensure that parents are informed if a child asked to be called by a different name or pronoun at school unless “a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in the child becoming an abused juvenile or neglected juvenile.”
The bill makes a distinction between curriculum and classroom discussion and makes clear that teachers would be able to answer “student-initiated questions” at any grade level, even when they deal with sexuality.
“This bill is similar to the version that the Senate passed last June, and we’re pleased to see GOP lawmakers bringing it back to the table,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It has a better chance of passage with Republicans having a supermajority in the Senate and being close to having one in the House.”
Senate Bill 49, titled “An Act to Enumerate the Rights of Parents to Direct the Upbringing, Education, Health Care and Mental Health of their Minor Children,” is more than 10 pages long and includes 10 basic rights of parents ranging from the right to “direct the upbringing and moral or religious training of his or her child” to the right to make health decisions for the child and access all of the child’s medical records.
Affirming that parental involvement and empowerment is “fundamental to the successful education of all students,” the bill lays on school personnel the responsibility of implementing “a well-planned, inclusive, and comprehensive program to assist parents and families in effectively participating in their child’s education.”
The measure would give parents the right to decide whether or not their child should take part in reproductive health and safety education and would let them seek a medical or religious exemption from immunization requirements. Parents would be allowed to inspect and buy public school textbooks and instructional materials and would be entitled to regularly receive student report cards that clearly show a student’s academic performance, conduct and attendance. Parents would also be able to see a list of materials their child has borrowed from a school library.
If the bill passes, principals will have 10 business days to respond to parental requests for information (20 business days if the request is complex). If the deadline is not met, parents will be able to make their requests to the superintendent. And if the superintendent fails to respond in 10 business days, the parent’s request will wind up on the next school board agenda.
The only financial penalty in the bill is a $5,000 fine that could be levied on a health care practitioner who provides or arranges for treatment of a minor child without parental consent.
If it passes both chambers and either escapes or overcomes a gubernatorial veto, the Parents’ Bill of Rights would take effect on July 1.
SB 49 was taken up by the Senate Education and Senate Healthcare Committees this week. Dozens of people from the LGBTQ+ community spoke against the measure, arguing it could force students to come out to unsupportive parents concerning their gender identity or sexual orientation, making them unsafe.
“In my estimation that’s at the heart of what’s wrong with their opposition to this bill,” said Rev. Creech. “Do parents want school teachers and administrators deciding or defining who isn’t a supportive parent? If a parent believes embracing a different gender other than their child’s biological sex, if they believe same-sex sexual relations are not in the best interest of their child, emotionally or spiritually, does that mean they are not supportive of their children? It takes a tremendous amount of hubris to say to a parent: I know what’s better for your child than you do. I’m more supportive than you.”
SB 49 passed both committees and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, which is its last stop before a vote by the full Senate.