May 25, 2022 - Politics

North Carolina bill would increase parental involvement in education

Illustration of a word balloon drawn in chalk on a chalkboard being erased.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

North Carolina Republican lawmakers unveiled legislation Tuesday that would increase parents' involvement in their children's education and ban educators from formally teaching K-3 students about sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • The bill is not intended to limit discussions in classrooms, however, lawmakers say.

Why it matters: Led by Senate leader Phil Berger, who introduced the bill in a press conference, the move comes as other Republican-controlled legislatures have proposed or successfully passed similar bills.

  • It's also part of a broader movement by Republicans across the country to further define what role parents have in their child's education and limit what can be taught in schools.

Details: The 10-page bill, called "Parents' Bill of Rights" would allow schools to discipline employees who "encourage or coerce" a child to withhold information from their parents. It would also require school personnel to inform parents prior to any changes used for their child’s name or pronouns in school records or by school staff.

  • It emphasizes that parents should have access to all education and health records.
  • Sen. Deanna Ballard, a Republican from Watauga County, is the lead sponsor of the bill.
  • The legislation would become effective July 1 if passed and signed by the governor.

Of note: It provides exceptions to these requirements, including in scenarios where disclosure could result in the child becoming abused or neglected.

The other side: LGBTQ activists condemned the bill late Tuesday night. Charlotte Pride said in a statement that the bill is a "copycat of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' law."

  • "The bill would also endanger transgender and gender-nonconforming youth by requiring schools to forcibly out transgender youth to their parents," the group said. "LGBTQ young people are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. This legislation will make this reality worse, not better."

What they're saying: Republican legislators argued that the bill differs from similar legislation recently signed into law in Florida, saying this version has more "specific, prescribed standards."

  • "This is an issue that parents all across the state have been concerned about," Berger said in the press conference. "This is an effort by legislators to try to address those issues. Nothing more, nothing less."

The big picture: North Carolina's legislative session began last week, and lawmakers have quickly moved to address some of the biggest issues facing North Carolina in health care and education spaces.

What to watch: The issues the Republican-majority legislature addresses may play into what issues lawmakers focus on as they campaign in the coming months.

  • All 170 state legislative seats will are up for election in November, and Republicans have a shot at winning a supermajority — giving them the power to easily override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes.
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