The North Carolina Senate Education Committee passed a measure May 25 that would enshrine a Parents’ Bill of Rights into state law.
The discussion became heated at times as Republicans and Democrats clashed over specific provisions in the bill, including those that would expand academic transparency and prohibit curriculum focused on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade classrooms.
But the heat turned up to a new level when Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, brought up the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 that took the lives of 19 children and two adults.
“As a parent, the right I really care about is the right to keep our children safe in schools,” Chaudhuri said. “As a parent, I would hope that we wouldn’t debate a bill that seeks to restrict what’s taught to elementary school students but instead determine how we can protect these very elementary school students from school shootings. Censoring school curriculums isn’t going to keep our kids alive.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-New Hanover, responded by directing Chaudhuri to keep his comments focused on the contents of the bill.
“We all feel for the folks in Texas, but your using this as a political platform to take advantage of a tragedy in Texas is not going to be before this committee,” Lee said. “There is nothing in here that relates to that. If you recall in the budget process last year, we passed five pages dealing with school safety and threat assessments. No speakers here should try to take advantage of a tragedy that occurred for some political gain.”
The measure, a proposed committee substitute for House Bill 755, would affirm a set of parental rights, including the right to direct the education of their child and access to healthcare records. The measure also directs the State Board of Education to create a parents’ guide to student achievement with a set of minimum requirements, plus laying an avenue for parents to learn about textbooks and supplementary materials in the classroom and object to those if they so desire.
“The proposed Parent’s Bill of Rights is a good first step toward empowering parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children,” said Dr. Robert Luebke, senior fellow at the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “The bill puts parents in the drivers’ seat regarding the well-being of their children. Is the bill perfect? No, but it would do much to restore the parental authority and influence over how their children are educated.”
At a press conference on May 24 announcing the bill, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County said, “This proposal strengthens the relationship between schools and parents. The bill is about increasing transparency and trust in our public schools. The more open communication school personnel have with parents about a child’s education and well-being, the better.”
“When parents are excluded from critical decisions effecting their child’s health and well-being at school, it really sends a message to children that parents’ input and authority is really no longer important,” said Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, at the same press conference.
On May 25, Gov. Roy Cooper put out a statement opposing the bill, saying, “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.”
The John Locke Foundation has proposed a Parents’ Bill of Rights that would safeguard the right of parents to direct their children’s education and protect their safety in the classroom. The bill of rights stipulates that every parent has a right to:
- Direct their child’s physical, mental, and emotional health
- Direct how and where their child is educated
- Transparency when dealing with their child’s teachers and school
- A classroom and school environment that is safe and nurtures their child’s well-being
- Be actively engaged in their child’s education
- Resources and accountability of school districts, administrators, and teachers
H.B. 755 now heads to the Senate Health Committee.