RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — A North Carolina bill that proponents say would give parents greater authority over their children’s education and health is heading to the Senate floor, but critics say the measure would harm young LGBTQ people.
The bill would require public school personnel to alert parents, in most circumstances, before calling their child by a different name or pronoun. It also would prohibit instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms, with an exception for “student-initiated questions.”
The bill was slated for a floor vote Tuesday after the measure cleared a third committee late Monday following nearly two hours of debate and hearings.
Authors say the bill is needed to keep parents informed about what their children are being taught in schools. Critics warn it could jeopardize the mental health and physical safety of transgender and gender-nonconforming students who could be outed to their parents without consent.
A version of the bill passed the Senate last year and the revised measure is expected to pass the chamber again. It also would have to clear the House, where Republicans are one seat shy of a supermajority and likely would need some Democratic support to push it through.
“It emphasizes those things that people have for a long time taken for granted as the rights of parents,” said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “I would say to for the vast majority of people in the state of North Carolina it’s just commonsense.”
Democrats in the House and Senate filed their own bills, outlining rights for parents and students.
Among other provisions, it calls for students to have “a learning environment in which discrimination in all forms is not tolerated by the public school unit or school administration, school police or security personnel, or students.”
“Extremists have passed this type of bill in other states from empty library shelves to crisis-level teacher shortages,” said Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford). “So, here we go again. Here they go again. Engaging in culture wars with the targets on the backs of children.”
Social studies teacher Jennie Bryan said she’s concerned legislation like this could make it more difficult to recruit people to be teachers.
“The language of the bill really suggests that parents are suspicious of teachers, that teachers can’t be trusted,” she said. “This is not a time to make this profession any less attractive than it already is.”
Critics of the bill have compared it to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, though Republicans point out the North Carolina bill does not go as far as what passed in Florida.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said he opposes the measure and raised concerns about backlash from the business community.
Sen. Berger said in response to that, “One of the fastest growing states in the nation is Florida. And, Florida is probably more aggressive in those sorts of things than this bill is.”