RALEIGH — At the April 17 regular meeting of the Moore County School Board, a Parents Bill of Rights policy was passed by a vote of 6-1.
Member Stacey Caldwell was the only member to vote against the policy. Later in the meeting, she said she agreed with most of what was in the policy but that she felt they “were targeting the LGBTQ community, and I will not be voting for this.”
The policy, first introduced in January of this year, outlines the role of parents in their child’s upbringing and education, and parents have the right to be informed about what their child is exposed to at school.
Broadly, the policy state that “Schools shall respect parents’ values and beliefs: Parents have the right to instill in and nurture values and beliefs for their own children and make decisions concerning their children’s education and upbringing in accordance with their customs, faith, and family culture.”
A section of the Moore County Schools policy dealing with notifying parents if their child wants to use certain pronouns or gender identity “transition” while at school drew pushback from LGBTQ supporters:
“Parents are in the best position to work with their children and, where appropriate, their children’s health care providers to determine (a) what names, nicknames, and/or pronouns, if any, shall be used for their child by teachers and school staff while their child is at school, (b) whether their child engages in any counseling or social transition at school that encourages a gender identity that differs from their child’s biological sex, or (c) whether their child expresses a gender identity that differs with their child’s biological sex while at school.”
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Amy Dahl, a North Moore High School teacher, accused the board of having policies that don’t just target gay and trans kids but all kids, stating, “what children seen done to their peers, they feel is done to them. Don’t target marginalized kids, and don’t pass policies that inhibit students from talking to teachers.”
She asked the board to “please center their focus on the well-being of children – take a cue from the medical profession, first, do no harm.”
Alex Lafferty, a male 16-year-old Moore County student who identifies as a transgender female, claimed to be “terrified” by the policy.
“I’m terrified. I am terrified for the future of women like me. Children like me. Human beings like me,” said Lafferty. “The parents’ bill of rights is unconstitutional, it’s un-American, and it is a pervasive and disgusting abuse of the Democratic system.”
Lafferty also told the board they don’t have “the authority to treat children this way, to treat trans people this way, to treat human beings this way” and that kids with unsupportive parents will be in danger. Lafferty didn’t elaborate on what would happen to a kid whose parents found out they may be transgender but claimed the “crimes, the inhumanities, will only increase” with a Parents Bill of Rights.
Later in the public comments portion, Lafferty’s mother, Erica, spoke. She said the policy “reeks of bias and subjective beliefs,” and the policy gives non-supportive parents “permission to reject their own children.”
Another student, claiming to be a 14-year-old transgender boy, said the Parents’ Bill of Rights was a “potential threat to all transgender students,” that it was a “gateway to physical and emotional abuse,” and that “Us trans kids should have a right to keep our identity private if needed.”
Area citizen Steve Woodward said the bill will “restore an appropriate relationship between the underwriters of public education – taxpayers, and especially taxpaying parents.” He said it will stem the hijacking of classrooms by a fringe element that demonizes parents while grooming children and ignoring their mental health. He said school employees complicit in hiding information from parents should be “weeded out” and “removed from their jobs.”
Another speaker, Hanna Parker, said she didn’t understand how those who object to the policy of returning rights to parents to oversee the well-being of their children were a problem. She said the teacher’s role is to teach that child.
“Teachers just agreeing with your lifestyle might not be the best thing for you,” Parker said. “And some parents are bad. I realize that. Some parents say they love God, and they won’t love you, and that’s wrong, and I’m sorry for that, but it is parents’ job to take care of their children.”
Parker added, “Living one way at school and another at home – that will hurt you.”
Another supporter of the policy, former teacher Wendy Crespo, said the policy “is not a punishment for anyone, nor is it political or un-American. It is not a threat. It is about truly getting those serving our schools to work with our families. It is simply protecting the rights of parents themselves.”
Crespo went on to say that parents expect those who serve in schools to teach children the basics; reading, writing, arithmetic, true and accurate history, and science but “not to place undue influence on children about sex, sexual preferences, or even sexual confusion. None of that belongs in the classroom.”
The board’s vote on the policy took place near the end of the meeting, with Board Chair Robert Levy giving some remarks prior to the vote.
“We have to ask ourselves when we’re talking about a Parents Bill of Rights, who has the final say with regard to students?” Levy asked. “A lot of our teachers would love to say, “Well, I believe that they should be able to keep it a secret and confide in me.” We don’t have that right. That right is in the parents.”
“The bottom line is we need to be open to everyone, and everyone means not just transgendered youth, not just LGBTQ youth, not just non-believers, but also people of faith,” Levy said. “And we need to guarantee to parents that if you entrust your children to our schools, we’re going to make sure that we’re a partnership with you in raising those children and when it comes to critical things such as what people are now calling transgender transitioning, we will consult with you because they are your children, they are not our children. Even though we may have the best intentions, we still have to differ to you.”
Levy continued, “But if a teacher thinks that a child is going to be neglected or hurt under this policy, we are all mandated reporters. We have to call children services and let children services unravel and help protect the children. No one is here to endanger children, but we are here to assure parents that they can trust their schools to teach without usurping either their prerogatives or their religious beliefs or the like.”
The Moore School board’s approval of the policy comes as the Parents’ Bill of Rights passed by the Senate of the General Assembly appears to have stalled in a House committee. House K-12 Education Committee Co-Chair John Torbett (R-Gaston) told North State Journal earlier this year that the house may be submitting its own version of a Parents’ Bill of Rights.