Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, one of the first systems in the state to comply with the recently passed laws impacting LGBTQ+ students, began sending out emails the first day of class that make it mandatory parents sign off on an online document identified as a “Student Information Form” (SIF). 

The questionnaire specifically asked parents to identify their child’s pronouns, confirm whether or not their child can take part in “reproductive health” education classes and requires approval for children to take part in what is vaguely described as “protected student information surveys.” While those are listed in the online form as CMS Student Engagement Survey, Panorama Student Social-Emotional Learning Survey and Youth Drug Survey, a link that offered specifics led to another section of the website that only displayed the words “this page is unavailable.”

Sarah Castleman, a mother of two students currently attending Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is concerned about  the 2023-24 academic year after the North Carolina General Assembly approved SB 49, which forces teachers to “out” students to parents and forbids discussions around gender identity in grades K through four.

As a bisexual woman who is very involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy work, Castleman’s concerns were only solidified after she received the SIF email from CMS. It requires her to sign off on documents that would provide what many view as private information about her children and family. 

“I’m having the double challenge of not only being queer and this is my work, but it’s also now affecting me as a mom,” she explains. “We moved here from Florida, and it was much better here. Never had any issues at all. Now, it’s not even a matter of myself – what could this mean for kids?”

Castleman said the survey’s intentions were unclear to her, and she said it feels CMS’s request for the students’ pronouns is a way to keep tabs on how students identify.

“They (the schools) want pronouns, because they want proof at some point during the school year in case a child decides to change pronouns or change names,” she says. “How many kids are out there that might be going through this right now and want to change their name and they don’t live in a safe environment, which is why they don’t come out at home? It scares me because those kids that obviously are not safe at home, they’re going to be outed to their parents, and that just puts them in an even more unsafe environment.”

Castleman said the new law is also unclear about how children can talk about LGBTQ+ topics. With her and family members being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, Castleman is afraid her children won’t be able to talk about their lives at home while in their classrooms.

“If my nine-year-old is sitting, talking to friends, is he not allowed to talk about me,” she offers. “Is he not allowed to talk about our family friends? Is he not allowed to talk about our community?”

Castleman believes the Parents’ Bill of Rights isn’t about protecting students or giving parents “more of a say” in their children’s education – it’s about erasing an entire community from history. She went on to say this bill isn’t just hateful – it’s dangerous.

“Some of our biggest senators on the federal level have openly trans kids or grandkids, and they are still fighting for this stuff,” she explains. “I just don’t understand [how] any parent at all – I don’t care where you fall in any spectrum – would think that this is safe for a child.”

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David Aaron Moore is a former editor of Qnotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently the senior content editor and a regularly contributing writer for Qnotes. Moore is a native of North...

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