by Kaitlyn Shepherd
Policy Analyst for the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Today, the North Carolina House Committee on K-12 Education approved Senate Bill 49, which would enshrine a Parents’ Bill of Rights into law.
This morning’s favorable committee vote marks the first action taken on the bill since February, when it was approved by the state Senate in a party-line vote.
The bill would spell out certain rights that parents have regarding their child’s education and upbringing. Among other things, it would affirm parents’ right to “direct the upbringing and moral or religious training,” of their kids; to choose how and where to educate their kids; to access their kids’ educational and medical records; and to make health care decisions for their kids.
The bill would strengthen accountability in the public education system by providing that any State or school district employee “who encourages, coerces, or attempts to encourage or coerce a child to withhold information from his or her parent may be subject to disciplinary action.” It would also make schools more accountable to parents by establishing a timeline and process by which certain information must be provided to parents who request it.
Additionally, the bill would make the public education system more transparent by requiring public schools to give parents certain information, including how they can be involved in schools, what legal rights they have regarding their child’s education, how their child is doing in school, and how they can support their child’s academic achievement.
Under the proposed bill, school boards would be required to adopt policies to “promote parental involvement” in schools, including procedures by which parents can review and “object to textbooks and supplementary instructional materials” and learn about all clubs available at their child’s school.
One of the provisions of the bill that has sparked the most controversy is the provision on gender identity instruction. Under the bill, school curriculum and supplemental materials could not include lessons about “gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” until fifth grade.
Support for a Parents’ Bill of Rights is strong among parents in North Carolina. According to poll results recently released by the John Locke Foundation, 62% of parents supported such a bill. More than a quarter of parents agreed that “the legislation affirms important parental rights and helps to end school practices that marginalize parental influence.” Meanwhile, 36% of parents said that “the legislation enumerates important parental rights with regards to a student’s medical and psychological records and bans all instruction on gender identity, sexuality activity and sexuality in grades kindergarten through grade four.”
The John Locke Foundation supports the fundamental right that parents have to direct their children’s education, upbringing, and care and believes that a Parents’ Bill of Rights is one of the best avenues through which parents can reassert their authority in their kids’ lives.
Senate Bill 49 now heads to the Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House. If approved, it will proceed to the full House for a vote.