A controversial education bill that was even more extreme than the outrageous legislation that usually gets filed by North Carolina Republicans is likely dead – at least for now, WRAL reported.
Speaker Tim Moore said last week that Senate Bill 90, which originally dealt with procedures for searching students, was unlikely to be heard this session. Earlier this month, in the middle of the night, Republicans amended the bill and added 24 pages just hours before the House Education Committee was set to hear it, according to WRAL.
The new provisions were largely about so-called “parental rights” in the state’s K-12 education system. The House committee pulled the bill from the agenda just before the meeting after lawmakers, school administrators, and others said they were concerned and confused by it.
“I don’t know that the votes are there for it,” Moore told reporters after announcing that the bill was unlikely to be heard. “I don’t know that that bill is going to move this session. There needs to be a lot more discussion in our caucus. And we’ll have to see where the caucus comes down right now.”
Moore said he couldn’t remember what issues there were with the bill, but that “There was some pushback within the caucus about some provisions concerning librarians or books.”
Those “provisions concerning libraries or books” include language in the bill that would require public libraries to keep material deemed harmful to minors in an age-restricted area of the library, require public libraries to receive written prior consent from a minor’s parents in order to lend them a book, and would essentially eliminate book fairs due to the requirement that all books sold at the fair would be subject to “prior review” before being sold.
Those are just a few of the things SB 90 would do to books and our libraries.
The provision that resulted in the most backlash was one that would allow parents – or right-wing “parents’ rights” groups like Moms for Liberty – the power to essentially fire whichever superintendent they want to. All these parents would need to do is file enough complaints against the superintendent that say their child’s school has violated their fundamental right to raise children how they choose. If five of those complaints are found to be valid, the superintendent can be fired or have their pay cut.
Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said that it’s appropriate to fire superintendents “if they’re not paying attention and not dealing with the people they need to deal with when they have bad actors.”
Along those same lines, the bill would also give parents the right to appeal to Superior Court if they believe their child’s school has violated their right to raise their children how they want.
The bill also addressed gender and sex-related topics. For example, licensed school personnel would be required to tell parents if their child is identifying as a gender different from the student’s biological sex, essentially “outing” these children to their parents. Schools would also be banned from teaching fourth and fifth graders about gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality in their sex education classes.
In addition, the bill proposes a new process for picking textbooks and library books, would repeal a current law that allows physicians to treat minors for mental health issues without telling their parents and would create a new group, the majority of which would be chosen by the General Assembly’s majority (Republicans, at least for now), to plan the curriculum for public schools throughout North Carolina.
Rep. Julie von Haefen, D-Wake, called the proposed bill “a license for book banning committees to run rampant” and for far-right groups to get school superintendents fired.
Even if this bill doesn’t get a hearing this session, Republicans are notorious for re-introducing their most controversial legislation during the next session so we should expect to see this bill again – and it might be even worse the next time.