Questions and concerns raised after State Senate passes controversial 'Parents Bill of Rights'

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Friday, February 10, 2023
What are your children learning in school?
Some North Carolina lawmakers want to make sure sexuality is not a part of the curriculum

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- What are your children learning in school? Some North Carolina lawmakers want to make sure sexuality is not a part of the curriculum.

Senate Bill 49 also known as the Parents Bill of Rights would prohibit sexuality, gender identity, or sexual activity from being taught in Kindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms. But are those subjects being taught to five-year-old and nine-year-old children in public schools in the state?

"Instruction around sexuality and gender are not taught in K through four classrooms," said Tamika Walker Kelly.

Kelly is the president of the North Carolina Association of Educators and a former elementary school teacher in Fayetteville with 13 years in the classroom. She said students are learning about healthful living, which is a curriculum that addresses social development, character education, self-esteem, decision-making, and the importance of physical activity throughout a lifetime.

"Many of our standards around healthful living for our students, especially in kindergarten, they talk about hand washing, they talk about empathy for others, they talk about how to recognize bullies, but there's no sexual instruction in the K through four curriculum here in North Carolina," Kelly said.

Who determines if students are learning about sexuality?

Wake County Schools and Cumberland County Schools both shared that K-4 students in their district are not being taught about sexuality or gender identity. The districts follow the North Carolina Standard Course of Study which is approved by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. DPI said their Standard Course of Study does not include any of those topics in grades K-4.

"It is a bill that continues to undermine the professionalism of educators in making sure that we know how to have appropriate conversations with our students," said Kelly.

The bill would also require schools to notify parents before making any changes to the name or pronoun used for a student in school records. This would apply to students at all grade levels.

"What is most troubling is that it aims to silence kids that may be exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity," said Kendra Johnson, the executive director of Equality NC.

Johnson said even the introduction of this legislation could impact LGBTQ students. A 2022 national survey by the Trevor project found that 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

"It feels as if our legislators are bullying kids and teachers and social workers in schools when they all should be working together to address the mental health crisis," said Johnson.

Eyewitness News reached out to the bill's original sponsors, Senator Amy Galey (District 25), Senator Michael Lee (District 7), and Lisa Barnes (District 11) for specific examples of where sexuality and gender identity are being taught in K-4 classrooms. The senators did not answer our questions.

"I guess it's easier to solve a made-up issue than it is to tackle the real problems," said Johnson.