You may have seen some of the headlines over the last few weeks discussing the Parents’ Bill of Rights. This bill, which was recently passed by the N.C. Senate, is designed to encourage parents to be involved in their child’s education, but critics have said that this bill puts LGBTQ children at increased risk.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Senator Amy Galey to discuss the Parents’ Bill of Rights and the impact it could have for parents in North Carolina. Senator Galey is one of the primary sponsors of the bill.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Parental rights have moved to the forefront of national, state, and local political conversation in recent years, and North Carolina is no different. Almost two dozen North Carolina state senators have sponsored a parental rights bill this legislative session that aims to affirm, strengthen, and protect the rights of parents in North Carolina to actually allow them to take an active role in their child’s education and healthcare.
Senator Amy Galey is one of the primary cosponsors of SB 49, Parents’ Bill of Rights. She’s in her second term representing Alamance and Randolph Counties in the North Carolina State House, and we’re grateful to have her join us today to discuss this important bill.
Senator Amy Galey, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
AMY GALEY: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be with you.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, start off by telling us why this bill is even necessary. What is the current status of parent rights here in North Carolina?
AMY GALEY: So I think that many people who have had children in public school in North Carolina, either they or a family member or a friend has experienced the situation where you have a conflict with the teacher, or an administrator, and you don’t know what your rights are. You have a feeling that something is not right, that things should be handled differently, but you don’t really know what your rights are, or you don’t have an idea about how to exercise those rights. What is the school system supposed to do when you have an issue or a problem?
So that is, essentially, the question or the problem that this bill seeks to address. When is the family getting stiff-armed by the local education unit or getting the run around and how do you cut through that?
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Can you give us some examples of some problems that may have prompted the introduction of this bill?
AMY GALEY: Well, obviously, there’s a lot of concern in this country about the sexualization of our little children and introduction of more adult issues to children. So this bill, one of the things it does is for children who are in grades K through 4, they are not allowed to have in their curriculum, which is defined in the bill, there would be no instruction on gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality because what we’ve heard across the state and really across the country is that there are people who are inserting adult issues, adult theme, into our elementary schools. So this bill, one of the things it seeks to do, is to address that.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So you’re not anti these kinds of discussions, as we might be led to believe by some of the news coverage that we’re seeing then?
AMY GALEY: One thing we should all be able to agree on is that discussion of sexual activity has no place in kindergarten through fourth grade. Kindergartners go to school to learn how to use scissors, to use their alphabet, to learn how to tell time on a face clock. They don’t go to school to learn about sophisticated adult sexual issues. So this bill seeks to address that by saying that instruction shall not be included in the curriculum for those grades for gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality. That doesn’t mean that a little child who comes from a family that has non-traditional parents should feel excluded or singled out or anything. Everybody should be welcome in our public school classrooms, but, also, those conservative parents shouldn’t feel like they have to check their values at the door either if they don’t want their children to learn about things at a certain age.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You mentioned that sexuality and gender identity instruction is one thing that the bill would address in the education environment. Are there other things that it would — that it would change or reinforce there?
AMY GALEY: Yes, so that’s one of the more — the spotlight issues of the bill. There are a lot of things in this bill that people, I guess, have tacitly agreed on. One of them is that the parents should have the right to be promptly notified if an employee of the state suspects that a criminal offense has been committed against the child. So, as it is now in the State of North Carolina, if your child is the victim of a criminal offense at school, the school system doesn’t have to tell you. Well, I think they should have to tell you that.
Another thing that’s in the bill is that parents would have the right to find out what books or to review all available records of materials their child has borrowed from the school library. So it’s not that the school is going to send the parents a list, you know, update it and that it’s continual surveillance, but if the parent has a question or they have a concern, then they have the right to review those records.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Now, this also has some impact on medical decision as well. What are those?
AMY GALEY: Right. So it should be that only parents or somebody who is a legal guardian who has legal custody of the minor child can consent to medical treatment. One of the things that we’ve seen in the news from California is that you have California school districts that are encouraging children in gender transition behind the parents’ back and without the parents’ approval. And this bill would definitely prevent that, as well as other kinds of medical care, unless there’s a specific exemption that already exists. So if the parent can’t be found, if. You don’t know the child’s name, if the child is about to — is in a life-threatening situation, then, obviously, you should be able to give that child medical care. And then there were some pre-existing carve-outs in North Carolina law like if the child has a sexually-transmitted disease, then that minor child can still get treatment for that without the parents’ consent. But other than those limited exceptions, the person who has the legal custody of the minor child, including their natural parent, adoptive parent, or legal guardian, that should be the person to consent to medical treatment for minor children.
Another place that this came up in the last few years, some people may remember the vaccines and how people — a lot of parents didn’t want their children having the vaccine pushed on them at school. So that was another aspect of it.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. So how does this bill that’s proposed in North Carolina compare to others in other states?
AMY GALEY: I have to say that I have not compared this bill with those of other states myself. My understanding is that it is really homegrown to deal with North Carolina issues but also to address those concerns that parents have that their family values are being undermined by the school system, by a government run school system.
One of the important things to think about when you’re considering these issues of sending our children to school is that the schools are — we’re talking about public education, which is paid for, funded by the government. The teachers are government employees, and to me it’s very important just like it was to the United States Supreme Court when they were considering the issue of prayer in schools. Now, of course, we have the First Amendment that says that there should be no state-sponsored religion, and that was important in the Court’s reasoning in saying you can’t pray in schools. But also important in their reasoning was that these — the children are a captive audience who is not allowed to leave. They are immature in their ability to reason, and also we have compulsory attendance laws where not only can they not leave, but also they are required to be there. So when you have that combination of factors, the government can’t indoctrinate in a particular faith view. And in my view, secular humanism, atheism are religions, too, and minority parents who are Christian, who are Muslim, who are Jewish, they should be able to send their children to government schools as well with confidence that their family values aren’t going to be undermined.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: What kind of response are you receiving from your colleagues regarding this bill?
AMY GALEY: The Republican colleagues that I serve with have been extremely supportive and, you know, glad that we have run this bill and taken on this issue of parental rights and having the school system to be responsive to parent’s concerns and implement policies and procedures to — so that parents have a pathway to get those concerns resolved.
Other people, people across the aisle, have really focused on really narrow parts of the bill and have made it to be something that it’s really not, which is unfortunate. My constituents, the people back home, have been extremely supportive and really glad they want — you know the experience of being stiff-armed by your local school system, unfortunately, is not rare. And people really feel like that everybody should be welcome at school, even if you’re conservative, even if you’re liberal.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So where is SB 49 in the legislative process currently?
AMY GALEY: So it’s gone over to the House. We passed it in the Senate, and it sits right now in the House Rules committee. And they’re deciding in the House whether or not they want to hear this bill or whether or not House members want to introduce their own bill with their own tweaks to it, a similar bill, and pass that and send it over to the Senate. So there’s different ways that legislation can make it across the finish line. The people in the House are, I think, weighing what they want to do and how they feel like procedurally its best to handle it, but the general precepts behind the bill have really great support and I’m confident that we’ll be able to send something to the governor to sign.
Now, in North Carolina, of course, we have a Democrat governor, and he’s already said he’s probably not going to sign this bill for a ridiculous reason, but we’ll see what happens.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, what is that ridiculous reason that he’s saying that?
AMY GALEY: He’s saying that he is concerned that businesses will not want to come to North Carolina if we pass this Parents’ Bill of Rights, that there would be corporations, which are willing to do business in Dubai and go to Qatar with the World Cup with soccer that are willing to do business with China that are willing to do business with Russia but for some reason these corporations wouldn’t want to come to North Carolina to do business because we don’t want gender identity, sexual activity or sexuality taught to six year olds. And to me that is preposterous. That is an excuse. It makes no sense.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, we’re just about out of time for this week. Before we go, State Senator Amy Galey, where can our listeners go if we want to either learn more about SB 49, Parents’ Bill of Rights, or follow some of these other things that may be happening on this issue in the North Carolina Legislature?
AMY GALEY: Yeah, I would encourage them to go to NCLEG.gov. That is the website for the North Carolina General Assembly, and that’s how you can find out where — what a bill’s status is, and it also has the contact information for the senators as well as my contact information. So they would be welcome to sign up for — contact my office and sign up for our newsletter if they’re inclined.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: North Carolina State Senator Amy Galey, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
AMY GALEY: Thank you.
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