North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would give parents more of a say in their children's education, particularly when it comes to sensitive issues like gender and sexuality.
Known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, this meaty piece of legislation would fundamentally change the dynamic between parents, children and North Carolina’s public school system — in a good way. It’s similar to a bill passed by the state Senate last year, though it’s significantly improved in a few key areas.
As you might expect, the bill has also become a flashpoint in the political media, which is always ready to line up for culture-war issues. It’s easy to reduce this bill to just the most controversial aspects, but it’s worthwhile to understand it in totality.
To help you do this, we’ll go over everything the bill does, why it’s necessary, and what comes next.
You can break the bill up into four main buckets.
Re-affirming established practices and law
Clarifying the interpretation of existing law
Creating new rights
Changing how schools handle issues of gender and sexuality
In many cases, the Parents' Bill of Rights reiterates long-standing customs or other provisions of law. For example, it states that parents have the right to:
Enroll their child in any public or private school they are eligible to attend.
Access any of their child's educational and medical records, as required by federal law.
Obtain a medical or religious exemption for school-required vaccines.
Withhold consent for sex education in school.
All of these are already spelled out in other statutes, but the Parents’ Bill of Rights brings them together in one clear document.
In other cases, the bill takes a stance on issues currently up for debate nationally — and that could cause problems in the North Carolina court system in the future if not addressed.
For example, the bill states that parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children in North Carolina. This would differ from California law, for example, which allows the state to take "temporary emergency jurisdiction" to conduct "gender-affirming" surgeries, regardless of what their parents say.
The bill also requires school districts to disclose all physical, mental and emotional health services it offers to children, and promptly disclose any changes to those services. This is generally spelled out in existing law, but it’s unclear and hard to find.
The bill also creates new rights that parents have not enjoyed to date. Some of the most important ones include the right to:
Receive a "Parent's Guide to Student Achievement" that includes information on the curriculum, textbooks and instructional materials to be used. The guide would also include specific information on how parents can participate in their children's education.
Trust that state employees will not encourage or force children to keep things a secret from their parents.
Opt their students out of sensitive or inappropriate student information surveys.
Formally report suspected violations of this law to the principal, and then to the State Board of Education if not resolved.
Naturally, it's the last category that's getting the most attention from the media — and the most opposition. Provisions include:
Prohibition on “instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in grades K-4. However, the bill specifically allows teachers to respond to student questions on such matters.
Requiring schools to notify parents when a child requests a change to their name “pronoun”
Opponents have criticized the bill using a few different approaches. It’s been attacked as unnecessary, as so much of the bill involves restating what’s already addressed in law. It’s also been attacked as unnecessary because opponents say the problems it addresses don’t truly exist. And finally, it’s been attacked as discriminatory, controversial and hateful.
All of these objections fail. Here’s why.
State Rep. Lindsey Prather, a Democrat from Buncombe County who's a high school teacher and activist but not a parent, called the bill "a solution in search of a problem." She's dead wrong.
First, you can’t set aside what’s happening nationally. In states as disparate as California, Maryland and Washington, courts have stepped between parents and their children in service of an ideological agenda, with sometimes-tragic consequences. This is real, and it is happening. Just because North Carolina hasn’t seen any high-profile cases yet doesn’t mean it’s not an issue worth addressing.
Other areas the bill addresses have come to our state, already. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, for example, tells teachers and counselors to hide transgender identification from a child’s parents if they deem fit.
Gender theory indoctrination in the early grades is also a major issue in North Carolina public schools. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, for example, begins transgender education in kindergarten, under the guise of “anti-bullying” lessons. School libraries also push storybooks featuring gender theory beginning in kindergarten, as well.
You could write an entire book on why this type of instruction is harmful to children. But the short version is this: At this age, children are still learning how the world works. To flourish, they need rules, routines, structures and order, even as they butt against them. Children test boundaries to establish where they are, and it’s a parent's job to establish boundaries, instill truth and cultivate values.
Radical gender and transgender ideology unmoor children from all that. In the ideologues' world, nothing is certain. Everything is fluid. There is no truth. You can't believe your own eyes, but you are also the sole arbiter of reality. Young children are simply not prepared to handle that.
In a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Amy Galey put the reasoning quite simply: "Let children be children and keep adult issues of sex and gender out of the curriculum."
Opponents have questioned why a “controversial” bill like this is a priority. But most of the bill is noncontroversial, but even the areas drawing the most protest are largely settled in the minds of North Carolina voters.
Even an egregiously biased poll from WRAL last year found overwhelming support for a law that would prevent gender theory instruction in the early grades. A full 72% of respondents identified it as an issue, despite the question leading the respondent in the other direction. And 58% said they would support a law to stop it, with only 33% opposed. It’s widely popular among both men and women, white people and black people, and Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Even Democrats are split almost down the middle.
Gender activists have tried to paint the bill as hateful and non-inclusive.
“All are welcome — that's a core tenet of our North Carolina public schools. But this bill says ‘All are not welcome,’” N.C. Association of Educators president Tamika Walker Kelly told a Senate committee.
But I find nothing in the bill to support this claim. It doesn’t prohibit children from identifying with whatever label they like or even prevent gender theory instruction for anyone but the youngest children.
As the American public education system has grown, it’s also become more separated from its initial charge — to help parents. Too often, the education bureaucracy views parents as an impediment or treats them with open disdain. Wake County Public School System, for example, instructs teachers to ignore parental objections while pursuing their own ideological ends.
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The hurdle to get by on the Parents Bill of Rights is the same one as last year, RINO House Speaker Tim Moore, who has a homosexual activist as his deputy chief of staff, and blocked the bill last year.