(The Center Square) – North Carolina students and parents could gain more protections in the public school system through legislation in the final stages of approval in the General Assembly.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights was approved by the House of Representatives 66-47 on Wednesday evening. Senate Bill 49 enhances public school transparency, outlines the rights and responsibilities of parents, and install guardrails on curriculum dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation.
The vote followed approval in the House rules committee in the morning.
The amended bill will return to the Senate – where it passed 29-18 with nobody crossing party lines in February – for concurrence, with a potential next stop with Gov. Roy Cooper. The forecast is for another passage, veto and veto override challenge.
Bill sponsor Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, told the House rules committee the legislation was motivated in part by parents who raised concerns about school materials and instruction while helping their children with remote classwork during the pandemic.
When those parents reached out to address concerns with school officials “they got the stiff arm – no return phone call, no return email, a lack of response,” Galey said. “I think that’s really where the genesis of this bill comes from.”
SB49 would guarantee parents access to a variety of education records and materials, while prohibiting schools from creating, sharing or storing biometric data, blood, DNA, and video or voice recordings without parental consent.
It would require schools to create a process for resolving parental complaints and would subject state employees to disciplinary action if they attempt to encourage or coerce a child to withhold information from a parent. It would also spell out a list of rights parents have to direct the education, moral upbringing, and medical decisions for their child.
More controversial aspects involve a provision that would prohibit instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality for kindergarten through fourth grade. Critics have also taken issue with a requirement for parental consent for students to change their name or pronouns at school.
Several Democrats, parents and activists have raised concerns teachers would be forced to expose students struggling with their sexual identity to abusive parents under SB49.
“I’m concerned about children and abuse … from parents,” said Rep. Allison Dahle, D-Wake.
Republicans argued teachers are required by law to report suspected child abuse, and framed SB49 as a “reaffirmation” of the critically important relationship between parents and their children.
“Parents have the duty, the responsibility to care for their children,” Galey said. “The state should respect that.”