HB755 (discussed in last week’s newsletter) moved quickly this week. On Tuesday, it passed the Senate Health Care Committee and on Wednesday it passed the Senate 27-18 (mostly along party lines), with no discussion between the second and third readings.
HB755 now goes back to the House for consideration. Another bill, SB860, introduced by Senators Batch, Fitch, and Garrett, and also titled, “Parents’ Bill of Rights” is a much better approach. It clearly enumerates already established parents’ rights without adding undue burdens on teachers or putting roadblocks in the way of creating safe, welcoming schools. It also lists a parental right notably lacking in HB755: “For his or her child to have a fully resourced classroom with the tools and technology to deliver curriculum requirements as required by the North Carolina Constitution.”
In contrast, HB755 creates worry and concern about nonexistent scenarios and paints an utterly false picture of what’s really happening in our public schools by listing numerous rights parents already have (e.g. ”The right to participate in parent-teacher organizations”) as if these rights are missing in our schools. HB755 also prohibits activities that are already prohibited, many by state law (e.g. It prohibits “the creation, sharing, or storage of a biometric scan of his or her child without the parent’s prior written consent.”).
To be clear, public schools in NC already have appropriate, well-documented, publicly available policies in place to respond to parental concerns. Parents already have access to what’s being taught in schools. The NC Standard Course of Study is posted online and school curriculum materials are available online or upon request. There is already no instruction on gender or sexual identity in K-3, so the prohibition in the bill is simply placed there to suggest otherwise resulting in misinformation.
Schools (staff and volunteer groups such as PTA, PTSA, PTO, arts booster club, and sports booster clubs) routinely seek out parent volunteers to come into the classrooms to work with students. There are extensive policies in place requiring parental notification for virtually any issue related to the child as well as opt-out policies for parents who do not want their child to participate in a specific lesson or unit. School personnel already work closely with parents in the best interest of their children. HB755 disrespects NC educators by ignoring the extent to which they already communicate instructional materials and seek parental involvement in students’ education. This bill misses the mark by not requiring the same level of transparency and involvement from private schools that receive public money.
HB755 adds strict timeframes for teachers, principals, and superintendents to respond to parental requests for information, which already overburdened educators and administrative staff may struggle to meet. It also places unneeded limitations on how much educators can discuss with students of all ages regarding their mental and emotional state before contacting parents. These limits could have a chilling effect on teachers, whose primary concern is for their student’s well-being and students for whom school may be the only safe space in their life. A recent survey shows that many students are already reluctant to seek help. This bill will worsen the situation. Its vague wording and rampant misinformation about existing classroom practices and parental rights are already causing a lot of angst and worry among educators, parents, and students.
The rapid acceleration process for parental concerns outlined in HB755 is also problematic. If a concern is not resolved by the school/district within 30 days, the parent can request a hearing from the NC State Board of Education. A lawyer must be assigned, conduct a hearing, and render an opinion within 30 days. The public school picks up the bill. Alternatively, the parent can bring legal action against the public school. One can only imagine the expense along with the paperwork and chaos this process will encourage.
The sum total of HB755 is an insult to our committed public school educators and other specialized support staff (counselors, social workers, psychologists) and yet another blow to our already under-supported public school system and most vulnerable students. Instead of passing bills that will drive educators away from schools, legislators should do their constitutional duty and make sure our public schools are fully funded and supported with the mental health support staff they need including nurses.
Please sign our petition against HB755 and let your legislators know it is completely unnecessary and will damage educators’ ability to create safe, supportive schools for students. This bill creates solutions for problems that do not exist.