North Carolina Senate approves parental rights in education bill on party-line vote

(The Center Square) – The North Carolina Senate approved legislation to codify parents’ rights in education and stipulate age appropriateness for curriculum on gender identity and sexual…

(The Center Square) – The North Carolina Senate approved legislation to codify parents’ rights in education and stipulate age appropriateness for curriculum on gender identity and sexual orientation.

The upper chamber voted 28-18 on Wednesday, mostly along party lines, to approve House Bill 755, known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, a measure designed to enhance public school transparency, outline the rights and responsibilities of parents and install guardrails on curriculum dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation.

Proponents contend the bill is critical to ensure parents are informed about what their kids are learning in school, while opponents claim the legislation discriminates against LGBTQ youth. All Senate Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, backed the bill, while all other Democrats voted against it.

“Prior to the pandemic, we took for granted the rights we thought parents had when it came to their child’s education. When schools were shut down during the pandemic, parents were able to get an up-close look at what their children were being taught,” said Sen. Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson. “Parents want to be more involved in their child’s education and this proposal strengthens the relationship between schools and parents.”

HB 755 would require schools to inform parents of their rights and responsibilities and provide a guide for student achievement. Schools would also be required to inform parents of changes in their child’s physical or mental health, including requests for name or pronoun changes, as well as remedies for parents to address concerns over those issues.

The bill further prohibits school curriculums on gender identity and sexual orientation for kindergarten through third grade, though it would not preclude organic conversations about the issue. The legislation would also provide penalties for health care practitioners who neglect to obtain written consent from a parent before treating a child.

Other aspects of the bill would prohibit schools from creating, sharing, or storing biometric scans, blood, or DNA of students without written consent, as well as video or voice recordings of students.

Democrats have zeroed in on the prohibition of lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation for children as young as five, as well as the requirement for schools to notify parents when their child is questioning their gender.

“The bill before us isn’t about parental rights. It’s about partisan games, political mandates and flat out prejudice,” Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, argued, according to The Carolina Journal.

Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, countered those claims of bigotry with facts, while others offered examples of how inappropriate lessons are creeping into the classroom.

“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.”

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, pointed to the recent controversy surrounding LGBTQ-themed flashcards used in a Fuquay Varina preschool classroom to teach colors.

“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.”

HB 755 received supporting testimony in the Senate Education Committee last week from Moms for Liberty, North Carolina Values and several parents, including parents of special needs students. The bill was opposed by a representative from the public school activist group Save Our Schools, as well as the North Carolina Association of Educators. LGBTQ activists also chanted and yelled in opposition when the bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill now heads to the House.

Gov. Roy Cooper has already weighed in on the legislation, describing it as a “Republican political ploy” and urging lawmakers to “keep the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ culture wars out of North Carolina classrooms.”