No one can say “parents’ rights” aren’t popular in North Carolina, with state lawmakers introducing more than one proposal this year to advance them. But there are stark contrasts between the competing pitches to empower parents.
One bill reinforces the idea that children belong to parents first. The other is declaring open season on the state budget and issuing lofty promises of “comfort at school” and “mental protections” that are impossible to fulfill.
The state Senate recently approved the first proposal to create a parent bill of rights. The proposal moves North Carolina one step closer to joining the list of more than a dozen states that protect parents’ right to make decisions about their children’s education and moral and religious upbringing.
The Senate proposal also includes important language that prohibits any school official from encouraging or coercing a child “to withhold information from his or her parent.” Reports have surfaced around the country about educators who allow a child to assume a different “gender” and even answer to a name and pronoun different from the name and sex listed on the child’s birth certificate without informing families.
When a child is confused about his or her sex or struggling with gender dysphoria, these are often signs of other issues, such as depression and anxiety. Parents must be part of the solution for their students and help decide whom their children should go to for help.
The bill also promotes school choice. In North Carolina, some families already have access to private school scholarships and even education savings accounts that allow parents to choose how and where their children learn, from choosing education therapists, personal tutors, a private school, and more—in any combination.
The proposal that just received Senate approval reaffirms that parents have a right to “any school choice option available,” which should prompt lawmakers and families to discuss how to increase the number of options. For now, anyway, the Senate’s proposed parent bill of rights affirms that parents have a right to choose learning options outside of their child’s assigned public school.
In the other chamber, lawmakers in the state House of Representatives have introduced what they describe as a proposal dealing with “rights held by parents.” But on closer inspection, the proposal reads like a promise that policymakers are once again defaulting to spending more taxpayer money on assigned public schools. The proposal says students will have “fully resourced” classrooms, though it’s not clear who gets to decide how much taxpayer money this requires.
Given the steady demands from teachers unions and other special-interest groups for more taxpayer spending on assigned K-12 schools, lawmakers appear to be leaving the dollar figure to voters’ imaginations.
The Carolina Journal notes that this House proposal would also allow students as young as elementary school to form unions, which means the lobbying for more money would enlist the help of students.
The proposal also says that every student should have “a feeling of safety and comfort at school, including sufficient protections and resources for the public school and school unit, including physical and mental protections for students and staff.”
Nowhere in the proposal are parents reminded that they can choose another school if their child’s assigned school lacks proper “mental protections,” whatever those may be.
The debate over what constitutes parents’ rights matters because, like many states, North Carolina has been home to controversy over classroom material. There were fierce disagreements that came from revising the state’s social studies curriculum in recent years. Some in the media portrayed lawmakers who wanted to remove radical racial material based on critical race theory from the curriculum drafts as akin to members of the KKK.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who is black, wanted such woke material removed and so was on the receiving end of such missives. He led a task force that reported testimonies from parents around the state who had discovered racially-biased or radical sexual material in their children’s school work—proof that the social studies revisions, and more, were and still are necessary to protect children from age-inappropriate or downright racist content.
The Senate proposal puts parents first. Families should not be fooled by other proposals posing as a parent bill of rights that are merely vague promises for “mental protection” and junior education unions.
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