RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republicans proposed new legislation Tuesday that would prohibit teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and would require parental notice when students in any grade question their sexual identity in school.
House Bill 755, known as the "Parents' Bill of Rights," would require schools to notify parents of lessons, changes at school and school resources. The bill would also allow parents to request lessons, textbooks and other learning materials and require schools to tell parents about things like tutoring services and ways parents can be more involved with the school.
HB755 would create new rules, with some directly addressing sexual orientation and gender identity. Instruction on those ideas would not be allowed for kindergarten through third grade, and schools would notify parents if their child requests a change to their name or pronoun. It would also require schools to receive parental approval before students are given counseling or other non-emergency health care.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said the bill isn't about silencing conversations about LGBTQ issues in schools. He said the language in North Carolina's bill is different from Florida legislation that was dubbed the "Don't say gay" bill.
"There's no attempt to squelch folks from talking about things," Berger said. "There is a specific prohibition on it being a part of the curriculum in kindergarten through third grade."
State Senator Deanna Ballard, R-District 45, said the bill is focused on strengthening the relationship between parents and schools, and it would create more transparency.
“It’s trying to establish and strengthen the fact that they [parents] have a right to ask these questions," Ballard said. "And then the school or the administrator, you know, should be required to provide the information.”
Senate Republicans said they expect the bill to pass before heading to the House, which is also controlled by Republicans.
However, Gov. Roy Cooper voiced his opposition in a statement to WCNC Charlotte on Wednesday: "Schools are grateful for involved parents and we need even more of them working together with teachers to educate our children. However, the last thing our state needs is another Republican political ploy like the bathroom bill which hurt our people and cost us jobs, so let’s keep the “Don’t Say Gay” culture wars out of North Carolina classrooms.”
Clark Simon, the president of Charlotte Pride, issued a statement saying HB755 would "endanger transgender and gender-nonconforming youth by requiring schools to forcibly out transgender youth to their parents." In his statement, Simon noticed the increased suicide rate among LGBTQ young people.
"Every child is entitled to the right of a healthy education in a safe environment, and that's really counterintuitive," Simon said of the legislation in an interview with WCNC Charlotte on Wednesday. "I think the legislation needs to work on making schools safer and not focusing on basically, 'Don't say gay or trans.'"
HB755 also lays out parents' rights to various notices, including regular report cards and participating in parent-teacher organizations. It also says school systems must establish procedures for parents to "object to textbooks and supplementary instructional materials."
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