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NC General Assembly Republicans talk Parents' Bill of Rights

Wednesday, North Carolina General Assembly Republicans held a press conference discussing the proposed Parents’ Bill of Rights.

Senate Bill 49, also known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, lays out ways to keep parents involved in the education of their minor children. The bill is sponsored by a total of 19 NC Republicans, with Senators Amy Galey (R-Alamance), Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), and Sen. Lisa Barnes (R-Nash) as the primary sponsors.

The main concerns touched on during the Q&A section were in regards to parental notification of a student’s mental health and physical well-being and “age-appropriate” education in regard to “sexual activity and sexuality”.

Reporters brought up concerns about outing transgender students to their families if the bill passes. Senator Amy Galey said there is no wiggle-room for possible delicate family situations. The bill is explicit in that parents must be notified if there are concerns about a student’s mental health or wishes to go by a different name and set of pronouns.

“If there's a concern that it's going to turn out badly for the child, then there are procedures in place to deal with that— if the parents can be abusive," Galey said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, teachers are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect in the home to the county’s Department of Social Services.

Another question was brought up about sexuality versus sexual orientation. Senator Mike Lee of New Hanover County acknowledged sexual orientation falls under sexuality and said, “I think that as part of the curriculum, you're not going to have instruction on sexual orientation that is part of sexuality. And sexual orientation just doesn't mean the LGBT community I mean, the sexual orientation generally.”

Senator Galey said the bill was not meant to discriminate against anyone, as families all look different. The bill also outlines that “student-initiated” questions are exempt from the barring of teaching on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality.

While Republicans hold a majority in both houses of the General Assembly, it is not veto-proof — so conservatives would need some Democrats to cross the aisle to overturn a veto from Governor Roy Cooper. When asked if any Democrats had been consulted, Senator Galey responded that she has yet to find convincing arguments to change the bill to get bipartisan support, but that she would remain “open-minded” to suggestions.

“I have not sought any Democrats, I'm always happy to talk to my colleagues to hear their ideas and to entertain them and see what we can work on together," she said.

North Carolina Association of Educators President Tamika Walker Kelly spoke to the Senate Education Committee the same day as the conference. Kelly later released a statement, condemning the bill.

“All are welcome. That is a core belief and tenet of our NC Public Schools. Instead, this bill tells portions of our community, especially those who are LGBTQ+, that they are not welcome. Many of the provisions proposed by this bill’s authors aren’t even necessary because it includes rights parents already have or changes already codified into North Carolina law. This bill attempts to undermine what we know to be true: that parents trust their child’s public school and their child’s teachers. At the end of the day, this Parents’ Bill of Rights does nothing to address the very real issues facing our state’s education system. Instead of this bill, we should be working to pass bills that ensure every public school student, parent and educator has the fully funded, fully resourced public school they deserve," Kelly said.

NCAE is the state’s largest education advocacy organization for public school employees, representing active, retired, and student members.

The bill passed its first reading on February 1st 2023.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY and graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Her story focus revolves her deep care for children, young adults and mental health. You can reach her at cmojica@whqr.org.