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RALEIGH. N.C.  (WGHP) – North Carolina Senate Republicans took a step that could have been expected: They are filing a bill that dictates what teachers can say to young children about sexuality and requires them perhaps to disclose confidential conversations they have with students about gender identity and sexuality.

This bill, like one enacted in Florida under the heading of “Don’t Say Gay,” would eliminate such discussions for students in kindergarten through Grade 3. Lawmakers discuss it as protecting parental rights and not about ignoring LBGTQ rights.

State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) (Courtesy of NC General Assembly)
State Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) (Courtesy of NC General Assembly)

The bill was announced late Tuesday, and at least some Senate Democrats said they had not seen the bill and had no idea for sure might be in it. But they were probably not surprised to hear some of the details.

State Sen. Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga), chair of the Senate Education Committee, announced the bill, joined by Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) and Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover).

If Republicans do pass this bill or something like it, there’s a strong possibility it would be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, and Republicans don’t have votes by themselves to override. However this does create a political debate leading up to elections in November.

The News & Observer in Raleigh reported that that the bill would require teachers or counselors to disclose to parents if a student has discussed gender or sexuality or their “mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.”

“If my child asked a question about something like that, I think I would want to know about it,” Berger told The News & Observer. “And I think it would be incumbent upon the school to notify a parent that those are the kinds of inquiries that a child is making.”

There are some 82 similar bills in 26 states being considered, has tracked.  These include legislation that has been enacted in Arizona, Florida and Georgia.

There is a similar bill called the “Parents’ Bill of Rights Act” making its way through committee in the U.S. Senate.

Michael Garrett
State Sen. Michael Garrett

State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) said he didn’t know what the GOP was going to do but referred to an online petition being circulated by the conservative John Locke Foundation.

That petition was posted on April 19 by Locke Foundation Senior Fellow Robert Luebke and asked for public support for the concept of allowing parents to be “free to fulfill their moral obligation to care for and raise their children and those entrusted to their care.”

The petition cites what the Locke Foundation describes as failures of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic to pivot to virtual learning and policies that have affected students negatively. It also addresses parents being “disparaged” by some administrators and school board members when they questioned, among other things, “increasingly politicized curriculum.”

Berger in his comments to the N&O mirrored that position, saying that the pandemic had “opened parents’ eyes.”