It comes as no surprise that North Carolina Republicans are adamant their new House Bill 755: Parents’ Bill of Rights has nothing to do with homophobia or being anti-gay. It’s all about being pro-parent, they say.
It’s unlikely anyone in the LGBTQ or allied communities are buying that weak denial. If the bill is passed, it will come at a steep price for children and teens that live in homophobic environments: the bill will require teachers to spill the beans to parents of students in any grade who tell teachers or counselors about anything related to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The bill reportedly won’t punish school staff for discussing gender or sexuality when such topics come up organically, but discussion in the curriculum is not permitted in grades K-3.
Like bills in other states, the subject would be limited for open discussion in all grades as deemed appropriate, which is, no doubt, deliberately vague.
HB755 will give parents the opportunity to have access to school textbooks and subjects under consideration for classroom discussion and teaching. If schools don’t comply with such a parental request, legal action may be an option, though it remains unclear how this could potentially stand up in a courtroom.
North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper has the option of vetoing HB755 should it make it to his desk. He went on the record opposing the bill in a statement to WCNC News on May 25.
“Schools are grateful for involved parents and we need even more of them working together with teachers to educate our children,” Cooper said. “However, the last thing our state needs is another Republican political ploy like the bathroom bill, which hurt our people and cost us jobs, so let’s keep the “Don’t Say Gay” culture wars out of North Carolina classrooms.”
Organizers and activists in progressive groups and the LGBTQ community statewide have also been quick to respond to the bill.
“We oppose this bill because it is antithetical to everything we believe as people of faith.” explained Cameron Pruett from the Charlotte-based national organization The Freedom Center for Social Justice. “This bill targets specific children for being different, and makes them a target.”
“This legislation puts children’s lives at risk,” says Reverend Vance Haywood, a senior pastor at St. John’s MCC in Raleigh. “To do this while the nation is still reeling from the Uvalde school shooting is unconscionable.”
“Even more concerning than the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ aspect of the bill is the forced outing of trans, non-binary and gender-nonconforming youth,” adds Haywood. “If a child has not felt comfortable telling their parents [about] their pronouns and preferred name, it is most likely because they fear physical, psychological, and emotional abuse at home. Forcing teachers to out the child to the parents is the equivalent of state-sponsored child abuse.”
In Charlotte, the city’s Pride organizational board also offered their thoughts on the discriminatory legislation.
“[We] condemn any efforts which make our schools or communities unsafe for LGBTQ young people, parents, teachers, and school staff,” said Clark Simon, the president of Pride’s board of directors. “This legislation, if passed, would drastically and negatively impact the ability of young people to realize their full potential in a safe and welcoming learning environment. Legislators should focus their attention on making schools safer and fostering environments where the most vulnerable of our youth can thrive and succeed.
“Legislation like this harkens back to Raleigh’s last anti-LGBTQ discrimination bill, HB2, in 2016,” Simon added. “It will backfire.”