RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The new school year begins with new requirements as the Parents’ Bill of Rights takes effect, following the legislature’s vote to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the controversial legislation.
The new law requires schools to inform parents when a child changes the names or pronouns they use and blocks instruction on sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through 4th grade.
Given that the legislature enacted the law just as school is beginning for most students, the North Carolina School Boards Association said it creates “serious timing issues.”
“Given that the bill became law essentially after its effective date puts local boards, administrators, teachers and all other school staff in a position to fail. We hope the General Assembly finds a way to fix this,” said Bruce Mildwurf, director of government relations for the NCSBA.
The law has a variety of other provisions in it, outlining the role parents have in directing their child’s upbringing and getting access to information about their health and safety.
“I would say they go ahead and implement it the way the law is spelled out. It’s really a commonsense law, something that so many of us think should have been done already,” said Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). “I’ve talked to a number of teachers back home in my district and I have yet to have one come forward and say they have a problem with it. They think that this makes sense.”
Kim Mackey, a social studies teacher in Wake County, spoke about the new law as she returned to her classroom Monday to prepare for students to begin classes next week. She said she has not received any guidance yet on how to comply.
“The law is written so broadly, I think a lot of parents are in for a surprise with a lot of the legalese that a lot of districts are going to be obligated to jump through,” said Kim Mackey, a social studies teacher in Wake County. “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that school districts can turn around so quickly when it took them well over a month to even override the veto.”
The new law directs state and local education officials to adopt requirements and policies to ensure compliance.
“If there are parts of the bill that are problematic, they’ll let us know. We’ll be back and we’ll be voting on things. We can try to address those issues,” said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
In addition to provisions impacting the LGBTQ community, the new law also outlines processes for parents to access books and instructional materials in addition to requiring written consent from parents to provide healthcare including in emergency situations.
Critics of the measure compared it to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, saying it could lead to the forced outing of students.
Mackey said she’s concerned the law will lead to students being reluctant to talk to teachers.
“Teachers and school staff may not be seen as trusted by students because of all the reporting requirements. And, what ends up happening is we have kids counseling kids,” she said. “And now, instead of one kid struggling, we have two kids struggling because kids aren’t equipped to help each other handle heavy stuff.”
The vote to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the Parents’ Bill of Rights came the same day the legislature voted to override his vetoes of five other bills, some of which also impact LGBTQ youth.
In an email, Jeanie McDowell, a spokesperson for the NC Dept. of Public Instruction, said the agency began working with districts and charter schools on implementing the law.
She said, “We recognize that many aspects of the Parent’s Bill of Rights are not new to public schools in North Carolina. However, we look forward to collaborating with the State Board of Education on the following action items from the bill:
- Developing a parent’s guide to student achievement that will include minimum requirements for public schools about what parents need to know about their child’s education progress and how they can help their child succeed in school. Once adopted by the State Board of Education it will be sent to and implemented by our local districts and charters.
- Creating a process for parents to petition the State Board of Education if parental concerns have not been resolved in 30 days.”