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General Assembly overrides Gov. Cooper's veto of S.B. 49, the Parents' Bill of Rights

The North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 49 in a veto override.

On Aug. 16, Senate Bill 49 — titled the Parents' Bill of Rights — was overridden by the N.C. General Assembly after Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it on July 5.

S.B. 49 requires public schools to notify parents of official changes in students’ legal names or pronouns. 

This law is one of multiple pieces of legislation concerning LGBTQ+ rights passed in recent weeks, such as H.B. 574, which prevents transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams in schools, and H.B. 808, which bans minors from accessing specific gender affirming care, like puberty blockers or surgical treatment. 

S.B. 49 also bans curriculums from including gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality for students in kindergarten through fourth grade. 

Gov. Cooper said S.B. 49 will “scare teachers into silence,” and that legislators are “burdening schools with their political culture wars” in his veto statement.

Maxine Eichner, a law professor at UNC, said S.B. 49 makes it more difficult for students to assume non-binary or transgender identities at school. At the beginning of each school year, parents will be notified of any health care service offered to their child and they must give permission for students to access this at school. 

Jonathan Melton, an at-large member of the Raleigh City Council and family law attorney, said the bill presents pressure on teachers to out their students, and that this violates LGBTQ+ kids’ right to comfortably come out on their own terms.

“As a gay man, it breaks my heart to think what kids will have to go through, removing that safety net from them,” he said.

Tamika Walker Kelly, the president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said the bill codifies provisions already given to parents and that no new rights are granted.

“Some of our students who come to school, particularly those who do not have access to a safe and caring adult (at home), will lose access to a trusted adult in school buildings, particularly if they identify as LGBTQ+,” she said.

Kelly said another provision of the bill requires parents to approve student participation in protected information surveys given at school. These surveys could ask about the student's or their family's political beliefs, religion or income, according to the bill.

Eichner said this law is similar to those passed in other GOP-dominated states, but that S.B. 49 is “narrower” in its prohibitions. She said these types of laws aren't based in science, and actually hurt the children that they are supposed to be protecting.

“The message it sends to these children extends far more broadly in other states that have considered these bills," she said. "Suicide hotlines for LGBTQ+ youth have started to see tremendous amounts of numbers of calls.” 

Julia Boseman, a former member of the N.C. Senate and the first openly gay member of the N.C. General Assembly, said she thinks the bill was politically driven and aimed at winning elections.

"We need to concentrate how we're gonna educate every child in North Carolina, instead of finding a way to take something else away," she said.

North Carolina schools have already been put under pressure by a lack of funding and understaffing, Sarah Montgomery, senior policy advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center and co-chair of Every Child NC, said.

She said that the timing of S.B. 49 is harmful to schools because the state has not provided sufficient guidance for districts executing the bill’s requirements.

“It's creating a really stressful experience and work experience for educators and it's entirely unnecessary,” she said.


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