House Bill 755, Parent’s Bill of Rights, passed in the N.C. Senate with an amendment on Wednesday. Before moving to the state Senate, the bill passed its hearing in the Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday.
Sen. Michael V. Lee, R-New Hanover, sent forward the amendment, which fixed a clerical error with the numbering of the bill and clarified the definition of parents to include all legal guardians. The amendment was adopted without debate, and all voted in favor except for Sen. Michael Garrett, D-Guilford.
The bill’s controversy comes from sections that would require parental notification if a student uses a different name or pronoun and would prohibit the instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 curriculums.
Some community members and leaders expressed distaste that the state Senate voted on the bill on Wednesday, June 1– the first day of Pride Month.
"Bringing #HB755 to a vote on the first day of #Pride Month makes clear this bill is little more than an act of legislative bullying of #LGBTQ people," Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The amended bill was returned to the N.C. House of Representatives, where it was initially introduced and passed in spring 2021.
Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Alleghany, was called to explain the bill on Wednesday. Ballard said that the bill affirms parents’ rights to the health, privacy and safety of their children and the importance of parental involvement in education.
“Members, this bill is critical,” Ballard said. “It is common sense and it is a safeguard for all of our students. So today, I do ask that you join me in protecting our children. One of the best ways we can do that is by empowering our parents.”
First to comment on the bill was Sen. Joyce Waddell, D-Mecklenburg, who voiced concerns about the extra burden on teachers. A former educator herself, Waddell said that instead of increasing teachers’ workload the focus should be on helping teachers recover from the pandemic and keeping them motivated.
Waddell also spoke about these issues Tuesday during the bill’s hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.
Garrett spoke against the bill and urged lawmakers to support an alternative bill, Senate Bill 860, which he said is sponsored by Sen. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, and Sen. Milton F. Fitch, D-Edgecombe, Halifax, Wilson, and co-sponsored by the entire Senate Democratic Caucus.
He described S860 as "North Carolina's own homegrown Parents' Bill of Rights" and explained that it was the product of conversations with parents.
“Our proposal is not imported from another state and forced on our parents and our students,” Garrett said. “Unfortunately, this proposal before us now is nothing but HB2 classroom edition and unfortunately, North Carolinians know too well the cost of state-sanctioned bigotry.”
He said that two “glaring omissions” in HB755 were parents’ rights to know threats against the school, in light of the recent shooting in Texas, and to know that their child’s school is “adequately resourced to deliver a quality education.”
According to Garrett, S860 explicitly addresses both of these concerns.
Lee said that HB755 is not bigotry, but is a “general rule of what is age-appropriate” for kindergarten through third graders.
“If it comes up in a classroom, it can be discussed,” Lee said. “If you're doing family trees, and someone has two moms or two dads, it can be discussed. But it can't be embedded in the curriculum. That's not something that we teach five, six, seven and eight-year-olds.”
Senate Deputy President Pro Tempore Ralph Hise, R-Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Yancey, said that HB755 is not comparable to House Bill 2, which drew controversy when enacted by lawmakers in 2016.
HB2 required that transgender people use public restrooms that matched the gender on their birth certificates before being partially repealed in 2017 and then fully repealed by a sunset provision in December of 2020.
"This is a simple bill that states that parents are responsible for their children and not the state,” Hise said.
After Hise addressed comparisons to HB2, Sen. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, answered Garrett’s concerns about gun violence in schools.
“I agree that, Texas, what happened there was horrific,” Ford said. “You're not getting an argument out of me on that. Seventy-eight babies are killed every day in this state under the guise of healthcare. I don’t hear anybody crying about that.”
Ford said that he does not want his seven grandchildren learning about sexuality in school and that those topics should be left for parents to discuss with their children.
He added that it is the right of parents and taxpayers to say what should be taught to their children in school.
The bill was put to a vote, passing second and third readings with 28 votes for and 18 against.
After the verdict was announced, a recess was called as LGBTQ+ advocates seated in the gallery began chanting in protest, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re not going anywhere.”
All Republicans present voted for the bill, while all Democrats, with the exception of Sen. Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, voted against it.
The amended bill was returned to the state House and has yet to be voted on. If passed in the House again, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will likely veto the bill.
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