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What Is (and Is Not) In the Parents’ Bill of Rights

kindergarten work space at school with paper, child's hands, and scissors

The North Carolina Senate passed SB 49–Parents’ Bill of Rights on Tuesday, February 7. As the bill was considered in the Senate Education/Higher Education, Health Care, and Rules committees, many testified in opposition, but clearly misunderstood what the bill would actually do. Proponents pointed out that the bill primarily outlines and clarifies the rights that parents have in the realms of education and health care, while critics claimed that it targets LGBTQ youth. So, let’s take a closer look at what the bill does (and does not) say.

Basic Parental Rights

The bill starts out by listing the basic rights of a parent when it comes to their children. These include:

  • Directing the education and care of his or her child, including their moral or religious upbringing and choosing the school that they attend.
  • To access all of the child’s education records (as authorized by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)).
  • To access all of the child’s medical records (as authorized by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)).
  • The prohibition of the creation, sharing, or storage of a biometric scan of his or her child, the child’s blood, or the child’s DNA without the parent’s prior written consent (with some exceptions relating to a court order or other legal situations).
  • The prohibition of the creation by the State of a video or voice recording of his or her childwithout the parent’s prior written consent (with some legal exceptions).
  • Prompt notification if an employee of the State suspects that a criminal offense has been committed against his or her child, except in cases where notification of the parent would impede the investigation.

So far it’s pretty straightforward. These are all things that help parents take good care of their children.

Parents’ Rights for Their Child’s Education

This section gets into more details that address the role that parents are allowed to play in their child’s education. These include:

  • The right to consent or withhold consent for the child’s participation in reproductive health and safety education programs (i.e. Sex Ed).
  • The right to seek a medical or religious exemption from immunization requirements.
  • The right to review public school unit textbooks and other supplementary instructional materials.
  • The right to access information regarding their child’s academic progress and the requirements of the school.

Again, pretty straightforward.

Parent’s Guide for Student Achievement

In a similar vein, this section addresses the rights that a parent has in helping their child succeed in school. These rights include access to:

  • School requirements, including vaccine requirements, requirements to advance to the next grade, etc..
  • The information being studied, including textbooks and instructional materials.
  • Qualifications of the child’s teachers, including licensure status.

This section also includes a variety of information about opportunities that would enable parents to be further involved in their child’s education in ways that would help the child succeed academically.

Public School Unit Policies to Increase Parental Involvement

This section outlines the need for policies that would increase parental involvement and empowerment in the public school that their child attends. These would involve parents in things such as community services, opportunities for family involvement in the school, school advisory councils, and school volunteer programs. It also outlines policies for the schools that would facilitate this parental participation.

Notifications of Student Physical and Mental Health

So far, all of this has been fairly straightforward. This section, however, is what is causing the majority of the controversy. It says that parents should receive:

  • Notice of health care services available through the school and the means for a parent to give consent for any specific service.
  • A copy of any student well-being questionnaire or health screening form for students grades K-3 prior to its administration, and the means for the parent to consent to the use of the questionnaire or form for their child.
  • Any changes of services or monitoring related to his or her child’s mental, emotional, or physical health.
  • Any changes in the name or pronoun used for a student in school records or by school personnel.

It goes on to state that, in these circumstances, the school personnel should encourage the child to discuss the relevant issues with his or her parent, and/or facilitate the discussion themselves. In addition to this, there is a safeguard that states that the school may prohibit parents from accessing this information if there was justifiable reason to believe that the disclosure would result in neglect or abuse.

Contrary to targeting LGBTQ students, these policies encourage healthy conversations between parents and their children. Parents cannot take good care of their children if they are unaware of issues and challenges their children are facing, such as gender dysphoria and identity issues. If parents are intentionally kept in the dark by their child’s school, they will not be able to discuss these important issues and provide the love, support, and care their child may need. This can also create a terribly adversarial relationship between the parent and the school.

Age-Appropriate Instruction for Grades K-4

This section simply states that instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality shall not be included in the curriculum provided for grades kindergarten through fourth grade. It does not include responses to student-initiated questions, and it does not prohibit children from discussing LGBTQ families. It simply says that there should not be any instruction on these topics, whether it pertains to LGBTQ or heterosexual relationships. Children should be allowed to have a childhood, and not be forced to think about such adult matters.

Parental Consent for Treatment

The last portion of this bill states that a health care practitioner shall not provide, solicit, or arrange treatment for a minor child without first obtaining written consent from that child’s parent. As the ones who are responsible for the health and wellbeing of their child, parents deserve to be able to have a say in the treatment that child receives.


Contrary to accusations, this bill does not target LGBTQ students or children from LGBTQ families. It encourages a healthy relationship between children and their parents, and studies have found that strong parent-child relationships have been associated with a number of positive outcomes, including the child’s mental health, school engagement, and social competence. While some have tried to argue that teachers and parents equally have the child’s best interest at heart, this simply isn’t true. While teachers may care deeply about their students, ultimately they will only be in their students’ lives for a short period of time. Parents, however, will be with their children for the duration of their lives. In addition to this, they have a long-term legal, financial, and moral responsibility for the health and well-being of their child that teachers simply don’t have.

While it is true that not every parent has their child’s best interest at heart, the vast majority of parents do, and they want to be involved in the lives of their children and help them thrive. It is important that the fundamental rights of parents to care for and direct the upbringing of their children are acknowledged and protected, and SB 49 will help to do just that.

Still have questions? We encourage you to read the bill for yourself!



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