RALEIGH — A “parents’ bill of rights” will get its first committee discussion Wednesday morning in the North Carolina Senate. Senate leaders in the NC General Assembly outlined the measure at a Tuesday night press conference, saying it establishes the right of parents to request information about what their child is learning in school, including lessons, textbooks, tutoring services and other details about how their child and school operates. Schools would be required to develop a system for parents to access this information.
The measures were added to the House Academic Transparency Bill from last session and would require parents to be informed of all health services their child is receiving, including notifying a parent of any changes in the physical or mental health of their child, and if their child requests a change of name or pronouns.
“If my child asked a question about something like that, I think I would want to know,” Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said at the press conference on Tuesday. “And I think the onus would be on the school to let a parent know that those are the types of requests a child makes.”
The bill also stipulates that issues such as gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be part of the formal curriculum until after third grade. There would be no ban on casual discussion of the subject in the lower grades.
“There’s no attempt to stop people talking about things,” Berger said. “There is a specific prohibition against it being part of the K-3 curriculum.”
The push to strengthen parental rights in education through state laws is happening in 26 other states, plus there is a “Parents’ Bill of Rights” in committee on Capitol Hill. North Carolina would join Arizona, Florida and Georgia, where lawmakers passed bills in similar language, according to a legislation tracking page.
The bill comes after the COVID-19 pandemic sparked an outcry among parents of K-12 children as schools moved online and parents began to see first-grade instructions. hand that troubled some. Dozens of parents have rebelled against public school closures, mask mandates, radical curriculum choices, controversial sex theories in classrooms and school board meetings closed to in-person attendance.
A recent Civitas poll found that 66% of likely voters say K-12 public education is going in the wrong direction.
A parent’s bill of rights proposed by the John Locke Foundation, which oversees the Carolina Journal, has been proposed with information circulating to lawmakers in recent weeks.
“Many parents feel increasingly helpless about what their children are exposed to in the classroom,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, director of Locke’s Center for Effective Education. “These feelings have been heightened by an increasingly radicalized agenda and policies in the age of the pandemic. Parents should be empowered to make educational decisions for their children and should be able to expect full transparency from schools, teachers and administrative staff.
The measure could not only codify parental rights in public education, but it could also be a major issue in the 2022 election. New Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, won in November after leading a campaign that tapped into parents’ anger and angst over K-12 public education.
The Florida version of the bill has garnered the most national attention. The legislation, lambasted by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, would prevent third parties from teaching K-3 students about sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to many other protections for the autonomy of parents over their children.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill March 28, saying in a statement that families “should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their children as young as 5 years old.”
In April, Georgia lawmakers passed a measure stipulating that parents have the right to see the curriculum their children are learning. Republican Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign the measure into law.
In other states, a parent’s bill of rights has met with stiff resistance from Democrats and teachers’ unions. Also in April, Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that would have codified several parental rights into state law. These include the right “to determine the names and pronouns used for the child in school” and the right to “withdraw from a course or educational material for reasons based on religion or personal beliefs”.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, also a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill, while measures have also fallen prey to veto pens in states like Pennsylvania.
North Carolina Senate Bill 755, Academic Transparency/Parents’ Bill of Rights, is scheduled to be discussed at 11 a.m. at the Senate Education Committee meeting chaired by Sen. Deanna Ballard, R- Watauga, and Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover.