Another Parents’ Bill of Rights may be filed in the House

The Senate version of the bill now sits in a House committee

The chamber of the North Carolina House of Representatives at the state legislative building in Raleigh.

RALEIGH — In an interview with North State Journal on Monday, House Education Committee Chair Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) indicated that the House will have some additions to the Senate Bill 49, the Parent’s Bill of Rights.  

Senate Bill 49 seeks to increase transparency for parents in a number of areas such as the well-being of students and curriculum.  It also bars teaching controversial gender ideology and sexuality topics in Kindergarten through fourth grade.  

Similar to last session’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, the bill appears to be in a time-out in a House committee, however, that may be because the House has designs on a bill of its own according to Torbett, who discussed some possible changes in its own version of the bill or may submit it as a companion bill the existing Senate version. 

One of the significant changes would be extending the prohibition on sexual topics and gender identity in the classroom through seventh grade when health education occurs as written in state statutes. In addition, tightening up the definitions of puberty education that is given as instruction often in fifth grade will be included. 

“Now, I am very much aware about folks concerned about letting kids know about puberty,” said Torbett. “I’m having staff draft some pretty tight language that defines what educating people about puberty actually is.” 

Torbett later went on to say “Someone’s really got to explain that to me or let me see the proof in the pudding about what will be taught. I’m asking for at least seventh grade.”  

The Gaston legislator also said the House version would include language about giving parents an “opt-in” for puberty and sexual health instruction. 

“There are some organizations out there that would like to see none of that until high school,” said Torbett. “I don’t think I can get a bill passed that way, but what I think I can do is give the opt-in for parents also across the board.” 

Additional language in the realm of more transparency may also be in a House version. Torbett said parents should always be notified first and know exactly what’s going on with their child’s education. 

When asked about pushback from LGBT activists and House Democrats on the provisions in the Parents’ Bill of Rights, Torbett said in part that “they have every right under our constitution to be wrong.” 

Gov. Roy Cooper would likely veto the measure, however, Torbett confirmed to North State Journal that a veto override will likely be successful, largely in part to at least one Democrat voting with Republicans in an override situation. Torbett agreed when asked if that Democrat might be Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg).  

Torbett said the focus of legislators for the last 18 months has been looking at a “new form of education” that he calls the “trifecta” of students, parents, and teachers.  

Also on Torbett’s legislative agenda are topics like school discipline, teacher licensing, calendar flexibility, and revision of the state’s A-F system for grading schools. 

“We are looking to tighten up discipline,” said Torbett. “I believe we have for the last four years been giving a disservice to our kids; to allow them to run the halls of our high schools and middle schools and some cases, even elementary schools with very vulgar language.” 

He went on to say that language that used to be “absolutely abhorred and not allowed is now becoming commonplace” and must be dealt. 

“If a teacher tells them to sit down and be quiet, then if they have foul language or words that direct towards that teacher, someone needs to have that teacher’s back,” said Torbett. “We’re losing teachers because of this feeling of unsafe they have in our classrooms. We need to make that go away.” 

A final topic touched on by Torbett involved the state’s end-of-grade testing regimen and House Bill 23, which deals with a program called “Gooru” which gives teachers a real-time dashboard of student progress. 

“If you just stop for a minute and think about what an end-of-grade test is, you’re hoping that child is going to be the best that child can possibly be on one day out of the year,” said Torbett.  

“To me, that’s one of the most ludicrous ways of trying to gauge an education of a child,” Torbett said about a single end-of-year test. He went on to say cumulative scores throughout the year to create a child’s grade were a “more valid outcome” regarding what the child has or hasn’t learned. 

Torbett also said the reason Gooru had not already been implemented was due to a past budget not being approved and “feet dragging” by the Cooper administration. He said for whatever reason, Cooper’s office has not issued a request for proposal in almost two years.  

Torbett said they’ve had enough of waiting.  

“We want to get it in schools this past year, but we were unable to,” said Torbett. “If we want to get it in school this next year, we have to act – which is why I pulled it out of the budget and just funded it directly via House Bill 23.” 

The bill does not yet have a fiscal note filed or dollar figures for the proposed three-year Gooru contract. 

About A.P. Dillon 1251 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_