Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly are getting close to an agreement on a final version of an anti-LGBTQ+ bill that would prevent children from learning about certain issues and could potentially “out” LGBTQ+ students to their parents.
Senate Bill 49, also known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” would ban educators from teaching students in kindergarten through fourth grade anything related to gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality. The bill would also require teachers or other school employees to tell parents if their kids change their names or pronouns.
The bill would require public schools to get parental permission for everything from anonymous student surveys to counseling appointments. And it would allow parents to complain to the state if they feel schools aren’t obeying the law, WRAL reported.
The House K-12 Education Committee backed the bill in late June. The Senate had already passed the legislation in February. The delay in the House, according to The News & Observer, was that some Republicans wanted to expand the limits on gender identity discussions, but they eventually agreed on the Senate wording.
Democrats have called the bill’s requirements burdensome and said SB 49 would have a “chilling effect” on students.
“This bill really ignores the reality of what goes on in schools when it comes to how children go to their teachers, how they go to their counselors and express that they’re having issues,” said Rep. Julie von Haefen (D-Wake). “This is going to basically discourage them from disclosing that need for help.”
The House committee hearing was held without any public comment because of a “lack of time,” according to Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Mecklenburg), a former Democrat and a woman who apparently lied about being a life-long supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.
Cotham is the committee’s co-chair. Her actions resulted in multiple people who were waiting to speak standing up and yelling “let us speak” and “what you are doing is wrong,” according to The News & Observer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there are rules of this body that apply to everyone in here, including you,” Cotham responded. “This committee is over and adjourned. You are dismissed.”
Some of those who yelled out had to be escorted out of the House gallery, including Cary mom Renee Sekel, The News & Observer reported.
According to Sekel, she was in fourth grade when she told a teacher that her parents had been fighting at home and the teacher “well meaningly and unknowingly” called Sekel’s mom and told her she was worried about her.
“I have flashbacks to what happened to me that night when I got home,” Sekel said. “I never want another kid put in that situation, but this bill will force children into homes that are harmful. It will force teachers to out kids — personal, sensitive information — to parents who may not have their best interests at heart.”
It’s becoming clear that what Republicans are really trying to do is turn parents and teachers against each other, just so they can insert themselves into classrooms and curriculum debates. They have no solutions for what our public schools actually need (money), and what parents, teachers and students actually want (politicians out of their classrooms and schools).
The freedom for kids to live their dreams starts in safe and welcoming schools. Republicans should work together with Democrats to invest in our public schools in order to provide more opportunities for our children and to build a stronger economy and future for North Carolina. Instead, Republicans seem to be solely focused on targeting and alienating LGBTQ+ students while also making it more difficult for educators and mental health professionals to do their job.