RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The North Carolina Senate in a vote along party lines on Tuesday sent to the House its latest version of a “Parents Bill of Rights.”

Senate Bill 49 was approved on second reading by a vote of 29-19 and then by a voice vote on third reading.

This came after impassioned pleas from Sen. Lisa Grafstein (D-Wake), who said she is the only LGBTQ member of the Senate, and District 23 Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Durham), who is a school counselor and the parent of six children.

They called for the bill’s defeat based on their expectation that it would do more harm and that most of its provisions are unnecessary under North Carolina law.

:Sometimes intent matters, and sometimes intent doesn’t matter,” Grafstein said. “In this case, it’s not intent but consequences.”

Said Meyer, whose district includes Caswell County, said he fears that kids will go quiet with their problems. He said small children need a “network of adults” to help with various issues.

“Kids want to be loved by their parents, don’t want to disappoint their parents,” he said. “If they are afraid because they are worried they [teachers] are going to talk to parents before they are ready, they won’t come at all. That can put them in danger.”

SB 49 was introduced on Feb. 1 by state Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) as the latest iteration of a bill that last spring was passed by the Senate but ignored by the House. Galey spoke in defense of the bill after Grafstein’s and Meyer’s comments and focused on the issue of how teachers should refer to pronouns for young children.

Galey said teachers should tell kindergarten children to “go ask your mom and dad. We’re here to learn to use scissors and write our names. We’re not here to explore gender or sexual identity to 5-year-olds.”

In a statement released after the vote, Equality North Carolina Executive Director Kendra R. Johnson liked the bill to the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation that has been adopted in Florida.

“North Carolina’s own ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill” is part of a nationwide attack on LGBTQ+ equality and another of many bills targeting trans and queer youth across the country. We know that anti-LGBTQ legislation has a negative impact on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth, who already experience disproportionate adverse health outcomes. We urge legislators to listen to the many healthcare experts, teachers, and families speaking out on the dangers of this bill and to take action to stop this harmful legislation from moving forward.”

Just hours before the vote, Democrats had introduced a counter-proposal that they say addresses issues for students and parents not found in the GOP’s bill.

State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) has introduced a “Parents’ and Students’ Bill of Rights.”

State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro) is one of three primary sponsors for what they call the “Parents and Students’ Bill of Rights,” which he says asks “Republicans to put aside the culture wars and focus on the issues that keep parents up at night.”

The bill, also sponsored by Sen. Sydney Batch (D-Wake) and Sen. Rachel Hunt (D-Mecklenburg) and cosponsored by 17 Democrats, provides 10 rights for parents and 14 rights for students that address topics such as mental health and gun violence. “Neither scored a mention in the Republicans’ proposal,” Garrett told WGHP.

NC Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) introduces her new version of the “Parents Bill of Rights”

Galey’s bill, which she said was about transparency, communication and age-appropriate curriculum, worked its way through the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee, the Committee on Health Care and the Rules Committee before returning to the floor.

Cosponsored by Education Committee Chair Mike Lee (R-New Hanover) and Sen. Lisa Barnes (R-Franklin), the bill, Galey said, addressed that “state employees including school personnel must not keep secrets about students from their parents. Parents have rights that we do not give up when we send our children to public-run schools. Parents are not afterthoughts. … Parents are charged with raising their children as they see fit, not in the way parents or other school employees see fit.

“The government is not a partner in raising our children.”

Their bill, which is titled “An Act to Enumerate the Rights of Parents to Direct the Upbringing, Education, Health Care and Mental Health of their Minor Children,” includes bans on curriculum about gender identity, sexual activity and sexuality in Grades K-4, specifies “age-appropriate discussion,” how schools should handle when a student changes a preferred pronoun and requires schools to make textbooks and other materials available for parents to review.

Virtually every aspect listed already is addressed by existing state law and policy.

Galey and Lee both had stressed when introducing the bill that it was not about “don’t say gay.” and they say the bill does not get into the issue of sexual orientation other than the pronoun reference as a point to be communicated.

This bill’s specifics are slightly different from House Bill 755, which the Senate passed last spring. Even though that bill was an augmented version of a bill introduced into the House, Speaker Tim Moore decided not to take it up during the short session, because he was concerned it would be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

That likely would happen with SB 49 as well, but the Senate now has a supermajority of Republicans, the House is one vote shy of a supermajority, and Moore recently changed rules that might allow him to call a veto-override vote without notice.

Why is this first?

Garrett, who also last spring filed a counter bill that he said emerged from discussions with parents, had called Galey’s bill a “cut-and-paste” of last year’s bill.

Galey also has been questioned by both reporters and her colleagues about why this is the first school-related bill to be introduced, given the state’s difficulty in finding and retaining educators and other funding questions for schools.

“It is a priority, not the first priority,” she said. “The budget discussion is underway … We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can be concerned about more than one thing.”

Said Garrett: “Our bill, SB 74, is a thoughtful approach that engages parents, students and teachers in creating a safe and strong learning environment.”

The bill was assigned to the Rules Committee, where it almost certainly will languish through the session.

What’s in SB 49

Parents have the right:

  1. To direct the education and care of his or her child.
  2. To direct the upbringing and moral or religious training of his or her child.
  3. To enroll his or her child in a public or nonpublic school and in any school choice options available to the parent for which the child is otherwise eligible by law in order to comply with compulsory attendance laws, as provided in Part 1 of Article 26 of this Chapter.
  4. To access and review all education records, as authorized by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act … relating to his 33 or her child.
  5. To make health care decisions for his or her child, unless otherwise provided by law, including Article 1A of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes.
  6. To access and review all medical records of his or her child, as authorized by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 as amended, except as follows: If the parent is the subject of an investigation of (i) a crime committed against the child under Chapter 14 of the General Statutes or (ii) an abuse and neglect complaint under Chapter 7B of the General Statutes and an individual authorized to conduct that investigation requests that the information not be released to the parent. b. When otherwise prohibited by law.
  7. To prohibit the creation, sharing, or storage of a biometric scan of his or her child without the parent’s prior written consent, except as authorized pursuant to a court order or otherwise required by law.
  8. To prohibit the creation, sharing, or storage of his or her child’s blood or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) without the parent’s prior written consent, except as authorized pursuant to a court order or otherwise required by law.
  9. To prohibit the creation by the State of a video or voice recording of his or her child without the parent’s prior written consent, except a recording made in the following circumstances:
    • During or as part of a court proceeding.
    • As part of an investigation under Chapter 7B or Chapter 14 of the General Statutes.
    • When the recording will be used solely for any of the following purposes: 1. A safety demonstration, including one related to security and discipline on educational property. 2. An academic or extracurricular activity. 3. Classroom instruction. 4. Photo identification cards. 5. Security or surveillance of buildings or grounds.
  10. To be promptly notified if an employee of the State suspects that a criminal offense has been committed against his or her child, unless the incident has first been reported to law enforcement or the county child welfare agency, and notification of the parent would impede the investigation.

What’s in SB 74

Parents have rights:

  1. To access and review all education records, as authorized by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act relating to his 14 or her child.
  2. To make health care decisions for his or her child, unless otherwise provided by law, including Article 1A of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes.
  3. To have access to transparent data about school and district academic performance data.
  4. To have access to information, data, and statistics as to the successes, shortcomings, or failures of each school his or her child is allowed to attend.
  5. To know the nutrition facts of his or her child’s meals.
  6. For his or her child to have a fully resourced classroom with the tools and technology to deliver curriculum requirements as required by the North Carolina Constitution.
  7. To receive timely notification of information related to his or her child’s health, well-being and education.
  8. To know of threats to his or her child’s safety, whether to the child individually or to the school or local school administrative unit as a whole.
  9. To have his or her child diagnosed and served by the education system for any learning disabilities that may affect the child’s educational outcomes.
  10. To be able to sit in his or her child’s class, so long as it is within reasonable limits set by the local school administrative unit.

Students have rights to:

  1. A learning environment in which discrimination in all forms is not tolerated by the public school unit or school administration, school police or security personnel, or students.
  2. 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.
  3. Teachers and other school personnel who follow special plans that affect the student’s educational settings, such as individualized educational plans, 504 plans, and other accommodations.
  4. Extracurricular and after-school programs, the means and access to these programs, and to request new clubs.
  5. Information, resources, and support to prepare them for life after high school, including access to college readiness counselors and vocational counselors.
  6. A fully resourced classroom with the tools and technology to deliver curriculum requirements as required by the North Carolina Constitution.
  7. Affordable and nutritious food, including an option for breakfast and lunch.
  8. Due process, transparency within the discipline process, and freedom from searches of personal property without reasonable cause.
  9. Access to gang violence prevention, peer-based mediation, and substance 20 abuse programs on campus.
  10. To organize, and have the opportunity to organize, themselves and be represented by their peers in important school decision-making processes.
  11. Self-representation in school district or charter school meetings and notification of school district or charter school meeting times and places and to organize collectively.
  12. Adequate access to and encouragement to use mental health and substance abuse services in educational settings and to be given resources to other outside mental health and substance abuse services.
  13. Access and the means to participate in school during emergencies, such as an epidemic or pandemic, natural disaster, national security threat, or other unforeseen event, including access to technology for online learning, mental health services, nutritional services, and college or career readiness support.
  14. Access a copy of the public school unit’s student bill of rights and to seek changes to those rights when such changes will improve the learning environment.