A Parents’ Bill of Rights passed the N.C. Senate on Wednesday, June 1, in a mostly party-line vote after lawmakers clashed over what the bill would mean for families.
Republican supporters say the measure, a committee substitute for House Bill 755, is needed to protect children and ensure that parents have knowledge about what their kids are being taught in public schools. Democrats, on the other hand, claim the bill would create a discriminatory environment against LGBTQ youth.
Moments after the bill passed 28-18, protesters began shouting from the Senate gallery, “We’re here; we’re queer; we’re not going anywhere.” The Senate suspended session until the galleries could be cleared of the protesters.
Every Republican present voted for the bill, joined by one Democrat, Sen. Ben Clark of Cumberland County. The remaining Democrats voted no.
The part of the bill that has drawn the most heated debate directs that issues like gender identity and sexual orientation may not be a part of the official curriculum until after third grade. There would be no ban on incidental discussion of the topic in lower grades, but official curriculum may not address those issues, under the bill.
More broadly speaking, the measure would affirm a set of parental rights, including the right to direct the education of their child and access to healthcare records. The measure also establishes a parent’s right to request information about what their child is learning in school, including lessons, textbooks, tutoring services, and other details about how their child and their school are operating.
Parents would additionally be informed of any health-care services their child receives, including any changes to their child’s physical or mental health, and whether their child requests a change in their name or pronouns.
“Unfortunately, this proposal before us now is nothing but H.B. 2 classroom edition,” said Sen. Michael Garrett, D-Guilford. “Unfortunately, North Carolinians know too well the cost of state-sanctioned bigotry.”
“The bill before us isn’t about parental rights. It’s about partisan games, political mandates, and flat out prejudice,” added Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake.
Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, countered that Democrats were criticizing a part of the bill that simply prohibits curriculum on sexual issues or gender identity for very young children.
“If it comes up in the classroom, it can be discussed. If you’re doing family trees and someone has two moms or two dads, it can be discussed,” Lee said. “But it can’t be embedded in the curriculum. That’s not something we teach five, six, seven, and eight year olds … that’s not bigotry in a bill. That’s what’s appropriate for five, six, seven, and eight year olds.”
“Now we’ve seen the other side move from ‘It takes a village’ to ‘It’s going to take a village and we’re going to exclude the parents,’” Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.
“It shocks me at times to determine the bills that are necessary in the state of North Carolina,” he added. “I could not have fathomed a few weeks ago that someone would think the best way to teach colors in pre-kindergarten is to show cards with a mythical pregnant man on them. That’s how they teach colors. There is no such thing as a pregnant man. It’s a little strange I have to explain that.”
The idea of a Parents’ Bill of Rights is a popular one with likely voters. A recent Civitas poll found that 57% support such a measure compared to just 24% who are opposed.
The John Locke Foundation has proposed a Parents’ Bill of Rights that would safeguard the right of parents to direct their children’s education and protect their safety in the classroom. The bill of rights stipulates that every parent has a right to:
- Direct their child’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Direct how and where their child is educated.
- Transparency when dealing with their child’s teachers and school.
- A classroom and school environment that is safe and nurtures their child’s well-being.
- Be actively engaged in their child’s education.
- Resources and accountability of school districts, administrators, and teachers.
H.B. 755 now heads to the House. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, issued a statement opposing the bill and all but promised a veto if it passes both chambers.