After school board ‘charade,’ the NC Legislature should make these 7 adjustments to the Parents’ Bill of Rights

Last year, the Republican Legislature passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights (PBR) over North Carolina Gov. Cooper’s veto.

The PBR gives parents the right, among other things, to challenge…

Last year, the Republican Legislature passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights (PBR) over North Carolina Gov. Cooper’s veto.

The PBR gives parents the right, among other things, to challenge supplementary materials – including library books – that contain content parents find objectionable. Based on my recent experience representing a parent in an appeal to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board in connection with the parent’s request to restrict or remove two books from a school library, it appears more teeth will need to be added to the PBR to ensure parental concerns are taken seriously.

The hearing in question involved concerns raised regarding two books: Sold by Patricia McCormick and Tricks by Ellen Hopkins. The parent who raised these concerns was Brooke Weiss, the mother of an 11th grade student and head of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty.  Ms. Weiss requested that parental permission be required for children to read Sold, and that Tricks be removed from the library altogether.  

By way of context, Sold is a book about a 13-year-old girl in Nepal who is sold into sexual slavery in India. The book contains graphic accounts of the sexual abuse to which the girl is subjected – including rape – as well as explicit depictions of violence. While these scenes are disturbing, they are not pervasive, which is why Ms. Weiss only requested that parental permission be required for students to read the book. Her primary objection was that the book addresses adult themes that are inappropriate for minors. 

In the case of Tricks, Ms. Weiss had more serious concerns. The book is a fictional account of five American teenagers living a life of prostitution in Las Vegas. It contains numerous sexually explicit passages, including the rape and sexual abuse of minors, and frequent graphic portrayals of illegal drug use and alcohol consumption by minors.  

The materials submitted by Ms. Weiss to the school board included nearly 20 pages of excerpts from the book, many of which can be described, without exaggeration, as pornographic. The book is pervasively vulgar, has no redeeming literary or historical value, and simply does not belong in a school library. 

In advance of the hearing, we were informed that we would have only 10 minutes to present our case, and that the Superintendent’s representative would have final rebuttal.  

We asked for 20 minutes to present our case and for Ms. Weiss to have final rebuttal, since petitioners typically have the last word in administrative or judicial proceedings. We were told we needed to make these requests at the hearing. When we did so, they were both denied, and the five minutes spent discussing the requests were counted against the 10 minutes we had to present. 

Because of the limited time to present our case, Ms. Weiss had to give her remarks during the time allotted for rebuttal. During her remarks, she asked the three CMS board members who comprised the appeals panel (Dee Rankin, Thelma Byers-Bailey, and Liz Monterrey) whether they had read the two books or the materials we submitted. They refused to answer. 

When we finished our presentation (such as it was), the panel “deliberated” for less than a minute before voting unanimously to reject our request. The panel chair then proceeded to read the explanation of the panel’s decision to reject the appeal from prepared remarks – it appeared the fix was in before they even heard our (truncated) presentation. The entire thing came across as a charade in which a decision was reached in advance for political reasons and the hearing was held merely to give an appearance of legitimacy. 

In light of this experience, the Legislature should look at the following adjustments to the PBR related to the right of parents to object to supplementary or instructional materials:  

  • Parents should have a right in such cases to appeal beyond the school district to a state-level entity, for example the state superintendent or the state board of education. If school boards know their actions will be scrutinized by an independent party, it will provide an incentive for them to treat more seriously the right of parents to a fair hearing. 
  • For each book that is subject to appeal, school boards should be required to give parents a minimum of 10 minutes to present their case, and the petitioning parent should have final rebuttal. 
  • Any appeal to a superintendent or school board should be open to the public (and announced publicly) unless the petitioning parent requests otherwise. 
  • Each member of any panel that considers a parental objection to supplementary or instructional materials should be required to certify they have read the materials in question. 
  • In large school districts, any appeal to a superintendent or school board should be videotaped and made available on the school board website for subsequent viewing, together with all materials submitted by the petitioning parent. 
  • Every taxpayer in a given school district – not just parents of students at a particular school – should have a right to challenge books in any school library in that district. 
  • Supplementary materials should be defined in the PBR to include school library books and any online content (including books) available to students on their school-issued laptops. 

The PBR enacted by North Carolina Republicans was an important step in bolstering the right of parents to protect their children from inappropriate materials that appear to be finding their way with increasing frequency into classrooms and school libraries.  

By adopting the proposed revisions enumerated above, legislators can further strengthen parental rights and burnish North Carolina’s reputation as a state that is resistant to the trend toward harmful indoctrination in public education. 


Peter Barwick 

General Counsel 

Coalition for Liberty, Inc.