Former teacher says controversial 'Parents Bill of Rights' forced them to leave

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Thursday, August 24, 2023
School districts adjust to new 'Parents Bill of Rights'
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With school set to begin next week, it's creating a narrow window of time for school districts to comply with the newly approved "Parents Bill of Rights".

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With school set to begin next week, it's creating a narrow window of time for school districts to comply with the newly approved "Parents Bill of Rights".

Just last week, Republican lawmakers voted to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the controversial legislation.

Among the main portions of the bill: limiting teaching about gender and sexuality from Kindergarten through 4th grade, and requiring teachers to notify parents if a child changes their pronouns.

Jack Turnwald is an openly transgender teacher who left Wake County Schools after two decades. They said a difficult political climate forced them to leave the profession they loved.

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"I can't begin to explain how sad it makes me that something like this, the legislation, the attitudes, the shift in our culture, have really taken from me something that I love and is central to who I am," Turnwald said.

Now, they said they're concerned about how fellow teachers will have to implement portions of the bill. Specifically Turnwald worries the portion of the bill requiring teachers to notify parents of the change in pronouns will take away a supportive lifeline for LGBT students.

"What it's essentially going to do is create a lot of fear for people, you're gonna have educators who are unclear on what they can and can't do and so they're going to fall back on restricting themselves the most to avoid having a problem," Turnwald said.

Right now, the North Carolina Association of Educators said they're getting a lot of questions from teachers about what they need to do to comply with the new law.

"So our educators are asking how does this stack up with our curriculum and standards to make sure that we are providing a safe and inclusive environment for our students, what sort of materials can we use in our classrooms," said Tamika Walker Kelly, the head of the NCEA.

Meanwhile, the bill's supporters said they know there's a short timeframe, but believe the changes are important.

This is a parental rights issue and parents are tired of being shut out," said Laura Macklem with the NC Values Coalition. She said while there may be a learning curve, she believes parents will benefit in the end.

"I think a child socially transitioning is a major life issue and that shouldn't be a chore to have to share that with parents," Macklem said.

Right now, Charlotte-Mecklenburg is the only major district we've seen already implement the new law into their own local guidelines.

Both Wake County and Durham County Schools tell ABC11 they are still reviewing the law before issuing any new guidance for teachers.

That will likely come after the State Board of Education meets in early September and issues its own recommendations.