Controversial ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ is moving quickly through the NC legislature

Ethan Hyman/

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North Carolina Senate Republicans are advancing the controversial Parents’ Bill of Rights a day after it was filed, fast-tracking the legislation that would ban curriculum about gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality for kindergarten through fourth grade students.

Senate Bill 49, which senators will evaluate during the Senate Education Committee’s 11 a.m. session, is similar to a bill from the 2021-22 legislative session. That bill, which received widespread criticism for potentially scaring LGBTQ students from discussing their gender or sexual identities, banned certain curriculum for grades K-3.

The House didn’t take up last year’s bill, anticipating Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, which the legislature could not realistically override. But opponents of SB 49 worry the General Assembly’s fresh makeup will drastically change the bill’s prospects. With a Republican supermajority in the Senate, and only a single Democratic vote needed to secure a similar consensus in the House, the measure may be a test of how the legislature could successfully rebuff Cooper’s veto.

The new Parents’ Bill of Rights would require “age-appropriate instruction” for K-4 students if passed into law, and require schools to make learning materials available for parents to view. It would also allow parents to withhold consent for participation in reproductive health and safety education programs, seek a medical or religious exemption from immunizations and see what books their child has borrowed from the school’s library.

SB 49 would also require schools to notify parents under most circumstances if their children change the pronouns by which the school refers to them.

Last year’s iteration of the Parents’ Bill of Rights sparked controversy among LGBTQ activists and many North Carolina Democrats, including Cooper. He and Senate Democrats compared the bill to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Opponents feared the bill would stifle conversation on gender and sexual identity in schools.

Former Republican Sen. Deanna Ballard said last year that the bill is not to restrict or prohibit conversations in classrooms.

“If a teacher has a same-sex partner, we’re not stifling discussion,” she said.

Heidi Perez-Moreno is a freelancer with N.C. Insider, The News & Observer’s state government news service. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.