RALEIGH — The Senate of the General Assembly passed House Bill 755, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, on June 1 by a vote of 28 to 18. Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland) was the only Senate Democrat to vote with his Republican colleagues in passing the bill.
“We know that children perform better in school when their parents are involved in their education. By allowing parents to review instructional materials like textbooks, parents can take a more active role in their child’s education,” Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) said in a press statement.
Ballard went on to say that “Schools shouldn’t be withholding information from parents about their child’s well-being. This bill establishes transparency as the new norm in education.”
Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has signaled he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk, adding to his already record-breaking total of 71 vetoes.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights was first introduced on May 24 by Senate leader Berger (R-Eden) along with Education Committee Chairs Sens. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) and Michael Lee (R-New Hanover).
The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee on June 1 with no Democrats voting in favor of the legislation.
House Bill 755 seeks to affirm the rights of parents with regard to their child’s education, including increasing curriculum and materials transparency by school districts as well as requiring that parents be notified with regard to the mental health and physical well-being of their child.
Classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity as a part of the curriculum in kindergarten through third grade is prohibited by the bill. The bill does not prohibit students from asking questions about such topics, however.
Critics, including North Carolina Democrats and various LGBT activist groups in the state, have attempted to label House Bill 755 as the “NC Don’t Say Gay Bill,” referring to the moniker given to similar Florida legislation that barred teaching sexual topics and gender identity ideology in Pre-K through third-grade classrooms.
During debate before the bill’s passage in the Senate, Democrat Sens. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford) and Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) repeated their past talking points on the bill. Garrett said the bill was “nothing but H.B. 2 classroom edition,” while Chaudhuri said the bill wasn’t about parents’ rights but instead “partisan games, political mandates, and flat out prejudice.”
“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,” said Lee in response to Democrat complaints. “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.”
School districts will be required to inform parents of their legal rights and responsibilities as they related to their child’s education.
Additionally, schools and districts will have to keep to a prescribed timeline for responding to parent inquiries or delivering requested materials for parental inspection. Districts will have to set up governing boards related to the enforcement of policies for parental requests for materials.
A principal has 10 business days to either respond or deliver the requested materials to the parent. If the request is complex, the principal can notify the parent of an extension to 20 business days in order to fulfill their request. If the request goes beyond 20 days, the parent can escalate the request to the superintendent.
If another 20 days pass and the superintendent has not complied, the request moves on to the governing board and it “must be placed on the agenda at the next meeting occurring more than 3 business days after the appeal.” The governing board’s decision will be final and not subject to any type of judicial review or action.
“Since becoming Superintendent, parents have made it clear that they have a desire to be more involved in their child’s education and more engaged in classroom discussions,” N.C. State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said in a brief statement supporting the bill. “This legislation is an important way to bring this to fruition, as it informs parents of their options so they can best determine how to advocate for their child.”
Truitt continued, “I support the Senate’s version of the legislation as it promotes the key principles like transparency and communication between parents and schools, and I look forward to seeing this bill work its way through the legislative process.”