RALEIGH, N.C. (AP & WNCN) — Senate Republicans in North Carolina have introduced sweeping legislation that would bar instruction about sexuality and gender identity in K-4 public school classes and give parents greater authority over their children’s education and health care. 

The proposed “Parents’ Bill of Rights” would also require schools to alert parents, in most circumstances, prior to a change in the name or pronoun used for their child. A Senate committee is expected to meet Wednesday to debate the bill. 

Among other provisions, the proposal requires schools to make certain classroom reading materials available for parental review and instructs schools to alert parents of any changes to a child’s mental well-being. 

“Parents have rights that we do not give up when we send our kids to government-run schools. Parents are not an afterthought in public education,” said Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) “Opponents to the Parents’ Bill of Rights would gut that protection for parents. They would shove parents out of the school door, tell parents we will take it from here and teach children with curriculum in direct conflict with the parents’ beliefs.” 

A version of the bill passed the state Senate last year but did not get a vote in the House. Prospects for passage this year have improved as Republicans lawmakers increased their margins in the November elections. 

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said at the time he didn’t believe Republicans would have the votes to override a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper (D). 

Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who was critical of last year’s bill, said, “Parents are critical to the success of our schools and their participation should be welcomed and encouraged, but the last thing we need is to force the “Don’t Say Gay” culture wars on our children and our state. We know from seeing the harmful impacts of the bathroom bill how much legislation like this hurts people and costs North Carolina jobs.”

During an education committee meeting Wednesday, Democrats questioned why Republicans brought the bill up as the first education-related piece of legislation during the session. They pointed to a new report by the NC Department of Public Instruction that showed teacher vacancies have climbed 58 percent.  

“I’m disappointed, I’ll say, that we’re here on a bill that is so divisive and I think the wrong priority to start us out,” said Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg). 

Sen. Galey responded, “That blows my mind that that would even be controversial. It baffles me that there would be controversy about a parent knowing what’s going on with their child at school.” 

Sen. Kandie Smith (D-Pitt) also asked if there are any records of sexuality being part of the curriculum in grades K-4 in any of the state’s public school districts. 

Sen. Galey said, “There’s anecdotal evidence that these things have come up and people are definitely concerned about it.” 

Equality NC released a statement about the bill, saying, “The bill would cause serious harm to LGBTQ+ students, making them vulnerable to forced outing and erasure in school curriculum. Like all students, LGBTQ+ students are entitled to learn and thrive in a safe environment and deserve protection and support from their schools.” 

Republican Senate leaders said they aim to hold votes on the bill next week. It’s unclear how soon after that the House may consider it.