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Understanding the Parents' Bill of Rights
This bill would fundamentally change the dynamic between parents, children and the public school system — in a good way
North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would give parents more of a say in their children's education, particularly when it comes to sensitive issues like gender and sexuality.
Known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, this meaty piece of legislation would fundamentally change the dynamic between parents, children and North Carolina’s public school system — in a good way. It’s similar to a bill passed by the state Senate last year, though it’s significantly improved in a few key areas.
As you might expect, the bill has also become a flashpoint in the political media, which is always ready to line up for culture-war issues. It’s easy to reduce this bill to just the most controversial aspects, but it’s worthwhile to understand it in totality.
To help you do this, we’ll go over everything the bill does, why it’s necessary, and what comes next.
What the Parents’ Bill of Rights does
You can break the bill up into four main buckets.
Re-affirming established practices and law
Clarifying the interpretation of existing law
Creating new rights
Changing how schools handle issues of gender and sexuality
In many cases, the Parents' Bill of Rights reiterates long-standing customs or other provisions of law. For example, it states that parents have the right to:
Enroll their child in any public or private school they are eligible to attend.
Access any of their child's educational and medical records, as required by federal law.
Obtain a medical or religious exemption for school-required vaccines.
Withhold consent for sex education in school.
All of these are already spelled out in other statutes, but the Parents’ Bill of Rights brings them together in one clear document.
In other cases, the bill takes a stance on issues currently up for debate nationally — and that could cause problems in the North Carolina court system in the future if not addressed.
For example, the bill states that parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children in North Carolina. This would differ from California law, for example, which allows the state to take "temporary emergency jurisdiction" to conduct "gender-affirming" surgeries, regardless of what their parents say.
The bill also requires school districts to disclose all physical, mental and emotional health services it offers to children, and promptly disclose any changes to those services. This is generally spelled out in existing law, but it’s unclear and hard to find.
Creating new rights
The bill also creates new rights that parents have not enjoyed to date. Some of the most important ones include the right to:
Receive a "Parent's Guide to Student Achievement" that includes information on the curriculum, textbooks and instructional materials to be used. The guide would also include specific information on how parents can participate in their children's education.
Trust that state employees will not encourage or force children to keep things a secret from their parents.
Opt their students out of sensitive or inappropriate student information surveys.
Formally report suspected violations of this law to the principal, and then to the State Board of Education if not resolved.
Changing policies around gender and sexuality
Naturally, it's the last category that's getting the most attention from the media — and the most opposition. Provisions include:
Prohibition on “instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in grades K-4. However, the bill specifically allows teachers to respond to student questions on such matters.
Requiring schools to notify parents when a child requests a change to their name “pronoun”
Why opponents of the Parents' Bill of Rights are wrong
Opponents have criticized the bill using a few different approaches. It’s been attacked as unnecessary, as so much of the bill involves restating what’s already addressed in law. It’s also been attacked as unnecessary because opponents say the problems it addresses don’t truly exist. And finally, it’s been attacked as discriminatory, controversial and hateful.
All of these objections fail. Here’s why.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights is necessary and solves a real problem
State Rep. Lindsey Prather, a Democrat from Buncombe County who's a high school teacher and activist but not a parent, called the bill "a solution in search of a problem." She's dead wrong.
First, you can’t set aside what’s happening nationally. In states as disparate as California, Maryland and Washington, courts have stepped between parents and their children in service of an ideological agenda, with sometimes-tragic consequences. This is real, and it is happening. Just because North Carolina hasn’t seen any high-profile cases yet doesn’t mean it’s not an issue worth addressing.
Other areas the bill addresses have come to our state, already. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, for example, tells teachers and counselors to hide transgender identification from a child’s parents if they deem fit.
Gender theory indoctrination in the early grades is also a major issue in North Carolina public schools. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, for example, begins transgender education in kindergarten, under the guise of “anti-bullying” lessons. School libraries also push storybooks featuring gender theory beginning in kindergarten, as well.
You could write an entire book on why this type of instruction is harmful to children. But the short version is this: At this age, children are still learning how the world works. To flourish, they need rules, routines, structures and order, even as they butt against them. Children test boundaries to establish where they are, and it’s a parent's job to establish boundaries, instill truth and cultivate values.
Radical gender and transgender ideology unmoor children from all that. In the ideologues' world, nothing is certain. Everything is fluid. There is no truth. You can't believe your own eyes, but you are also the sole arbiter of reality. Young children are simply not prepared to handle that.
In a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Amy Galey put the reasoning quite simply: "Let children be children and keep adult issues of sex and gender out of the curriculum."
The bill is not divisive, but has widespread support
Opponents have questioned why a “controversial” bill like this is a priority. But most of the bill is noncontroversial, but even the areas drawing the most protest are largely settled in the minds of North Carolina voters.
Even an egregiously biased poll from WRAL last year found overwhelming support for a law that would prevent gender theory instruction in the early grades. A full 72% of respondents identified it as an issue, despite the question leading the respondent in the other direction. And 58% said they would support a law to stop it, with only 33% opposed. It’s widely popular among both men and women, white people and black people, and Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Even Democrats are split almost down the middle.
The bill is not hateful
Gender activists have tried to paint the bill as hateful and non-inclusive.
“All are welcome — that's a core tenet of our North Carolina public schools. But this bill says ‘All are not welcome,’” N.C. Association of Educators president Tamika Walker Kelly told a Senate committee.
But I find nothing in the bill to support this claim. It doesn’t prohibit children from identifying with whatever label they like or even prevent gender theory instruction for anyone but the youngest children.
The bill properly recognizes the relationship between parents, children and teachers
As the American public education system has grown, it’s also become more separated from its initial charge — to help parents. Too often, the education bureaucracy views parents as an impediment or treats them with open disdain. Wake County Public School System, for example, instructs teachers to ignore parental objections while pursuing their own ideological ends.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights attempts to correct this imbalance, explicitly requiring schools to take deliberate action to involve and include families in their children’s education. Notably, it directs schools to inform parents about the rights they already have, something schools frequently try to hide currently — just ask anybody who’s tried to get an IEP.
Will it pass?
The Senate passed a similar bill in the last session, though it never got a vote in the House. At the time, House Speaker Tim Moore essentially said that because he didn't have enough votes in his chamber to override the all-but-certain veto, he didn't want to consider the bill.
Now things are different. Republicans picked up seats in the House, leaving the chamber just one seat short of a supermajority. Only one Democrat would need to cross party lines and vote in favor of a veto override. This may give Moore incentive to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, though overriding Cooper's veto is far from certain.
Not only that, but the national tide appears to be turning in favor of wrenching control of public education away from the idealogues and giving parents more of a say.
We may get a better indication of the Parents’ Bill of Right’s prospects when a companion bill is filed in the House. On bills that will get significant public attention, Moore has shown that he’d like to get a Democrat co-sponsor to signal bipartisan support and a likely successful override vote. I’m certain discussions are already underway to line up a Democrat to attach his or her name to this bill. If they’re not, they should be.
This bill is important and must be enacted into law this year.
8 things of note
Michael Regan will be a strong political candidate — but probably not in 2024
Spectrum News's Tim Boyum released a podcast this week with an in-depth look at Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, who formerly headed up the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. The interview makes it clear that Regan, 46, has ambitions to run for office in North Carolina — and he'll be a particularly strong Democratic candidate when he does. Here are four reasons why.
Regan has deep roots in rural North Carolina. Regan grew up in Goldsboro but also spent a considerable amount of time on his grandfather's farm in Bladen County, as well. He talks about growing up hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather. To be successful, Democrats generally must have ties outside the deep-blue parts of the state.
Regan isn't afraid of working with Republicans. He talked glowingly about his friendship with Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, and he was introduced at his federal confirmation hearing by U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Regan is likely more partisan than he lets on, but he's certainly not a scorched-earth politician like Gov. Roy Cooper and AG Josh Stein have become.
Regan has progressive bona fides. In his role, Regan has moved the ball on liberal priorities, including creating a new national office around “environmental justice” and civil rights at the EPA.
Regan checks boxes. Democrats have spoken openly about their desire to stop nominating white men for statewide office. To be fair, Republicans get excited when they run minority candidates, too. Regan is a black man and would add diversity to the slate.
Will Regan run? It seems pretty clear the answer is yes. When asked directly on the podcast, Regan seemed to indicate his desire to do so. “I am a public servant by heart. I can't imagine in the future not serving, especially the state of North Carolina,” he said.
The only question is when — and for what office. With his resume, Regan would be particularly well-suited for a gubernatorial bid or a run for the U.S. Senate — and likely would not have trouble winning the Democratic primary.
There is no Senate seat up in 2024, but there is, of course, a governor's race. It’s possible Regan makes a run, but it feels unlikely.
There are unsubstantiated rumors that Regan is considering stepping down from his EPA post. Even if they were true, it's probably more likely that Regan is pursuing a job in the private sector to make a lot of money for a few years before a political run than it is that he's launching a campaign now.
Regan is still relatively young and could be a shoo-in nominee in a future cycle, avoiding a contentious primary battle against Stein. That feels like the most likely scenario.
Mark Walker floats idea of running for governor in 2024
Former Congressman Mark Walker, who most recently came in a distant third in his bid for U.S. Senate in 2022, is now apparently considering a run for governor in 2024. He’s said to be taking meetings in Washington D.C. this week with members of the Republican Governors Association, the Assembly reports.
The thesis is pretty clear. Many Republicans, deep-pocketed ones especially, are concerned that Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson will have a difficult time winning a general election and are casting about for another, more electable, candidate to run in the Republican primary. Walker has a good heart but has a limited statewide profile and a bit of his own baggage. He also generally tries to fill the “grassroots” lane in his campaigns, which simply won’t work against Robinson.
N.C. Chamber general counsel considers running for attorney general
One of the biggest open questions has been who Republicans would run for state attorney general in 2024. With current AG Josh Stein having already announced a run for governor, the seat will be up for grabs — and Democrats have had a stranglehold on the position for most of state history.
Now we have the first potential name: Ray Starling, the general counsel for the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. He reportedly told attendees of a large Raleigh dinner that he is in "active, serious discussions" about a bid, according to a tweet from former N&O reporter Andy Curliss.
Starling would be a formidable candidate. He's well-connected across the state and has an expertise in agricultural law that should resonate with rural voters that are crucial in a Republican primary.
New N.C. Supreme Court to revisit December's rushed opinions
It appears that sanity could soon be restored to North Carolina’s judicial system. Just a month into the new session, the new state Supreme Court has voted to revisit two opinions rushed through in the closing days of the previous Democrat-majority court’s tenure.
The new hearings could open up a years-long logjam between the General Assembly and the judicial system on two key issues: redistricting and voter ID.
The previous Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law and congressional and General Assembly redistricting maps in decisions issued in December. Both the redistricting case and the voter ID case will be re-heard by the new court on March 14.
Weatherman demands answers from Gov. Cooper on Chinese spy balloon
As the Chinese spy balloon hovered over North Carolina on Saturday, lieutenant governor candidate Hal Weatherman posted a demand for Gov. Roy Cooper to explain why he did not take action.
“The N.C.-based media should be demanding answers from Governor Cooper as to what his plan is, and he should share any information he has been provided by the Biden Administration which would lead him to allow safe passage of a foreign government aircraft over the sovereign soil of our state,” Weatherman wrote. “Is the Governor really going to allow a low-level, slow-moving spy balloon to do reconnaissance of our state's critical infrastructure and military bases and do nothing? The citizens of North Carolina deserve an explanation.”
It’s an interesting question that does deserve an answer, even with the balloon being shot down near Myrtle Beach over the weekend. Were governors briefed with information that dissuaded them from taking action? Or did they simply not care?
Rep. Destin Hall produces video defending bill requiring sheriffs to cooperate with ICE
Here's something we don't see a lot of on the Republican side, but should. Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) put out a video last week explaining why he re-introduced a bill that would require North Carolina sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials, turning over criminal illegal aliens to ICE once they've finished their sentences locally. It's got high-quality production values, and actively makes the case for why the bill is needed.
Over the past decade, Republican leaders in North Carolina haven't really tried to make the case for why their policies are good for the state. They've relied on legislative supermajorities instead, and when those fail, they've more or less thrown up their hands and given up. Rep. Hall is showing another path: Persuading the people of North Carolina and building a mandate. Time will tell if the approach will work in this case, but in the long run, it's almost guaranteed to be necessary.
All 49 House Democrats co-sponsor bill to codify Roe
All 49 of the state House's Democratic representatives have signed onto a bill that would allow abortions up to the point of "fetal viability," an amorphous term that is somewhere near 6 months of pregnancy. That would be more permissive than North Carolina's current cut-off of 20 weeks.
The bill stands zero chance of being enacted into law, but it's still significant. Republicans are one vote shy of a supermajority in the House, meaning at least one Democrat would need to cross the aisle to vote in favor of overriding Gov. Roy Cooper's veto — which is virtually guaranteed on any abortion-related legislation.
That could still happen, but it’s less likely with unanimous Democrat support for this bill. Republicans had hoped more moderate, religious, rural Democrats like Rep. Garland Pierce or Rep. Michael Wray would support protecting unborn life at earlier stages.
Former chancellor: New UNC civics program represents "dark, dark times in Chapel Hill"
UNC-Chapel Hill is creating a new program to promote civics and civil discourse in the state of North Carolina — and the faculty are absolutely losing their minds over it.
The university's Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to support a new School of Civic Life and Leadership, pledging 20 faculty members and new degree programs for undergraduates. The idea is to equip students to be able to debate ideas, build leadership skills and improve the tenor of our state's political climate. In short, it's exactly the sort of thing the University of North Carolina was created to do.
The main reason why faculty say they are upset about the whole thing is because they believe ideas for new departments or degrees should originate from academics, not management, according to the Washington Post. Former UNC chancellor Holden Thorp, now the editor of Science journals and a professor at the University of Washington, told The Daily Tar Heel that the move was a sign of "dark, dark times in Chapel Hill."
They're completely wrong. UNC does not belong to the professors and administrators, but to the people of the state of North Carolina. If the people, through their elected representatives and appointees, decide they want changes, they deserve them.
If there are "dark, dark times in Chapel Hill," it's because the university has completely strayed from its mission and connection to the people and well-being of our state — not because of civics education.
2 good ideas from another state
Utah blocks "gender-affirming" surgeries, hormones for children. A new law signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox will ban experimental surgeries and pause off-label use of hormones for children in the state who are brought in for treatment of gender dysphoria. The law calls for a "systematic medical evidence review" and a report to the state legislature on the long-term effects of hormone treatments before lawmakers will consider lifting the moratorium. Surgeries are banned indefinitely. Children currently receiving hormone treatments are permitted to continue receiving them, and children born with sexual development disorders may still be treated normally. Doctors and hospitals who defy the law are subject to medical malpractice lawsuits.
Utah passes universal school choice. Just a few weeks after Iowa created a universal school choice program, Utah has followed suit. The "Utah Fits All Scholarship" will offer any parent of a K-12 student an education savings account worth up to $8,000 to pay for a private school of their choice. Utah's program will be limited to 5,000 families and $42 million in its first year, and low-income families have priority. However, the program is likely to expand in the future.
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