NC Republicans Are Fast-Tracking a New ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill That Would Force Teachers to Out Students 

North Carolina state Sen. Michael Lee, a New Hanover County Republican and education committee co-chair, takes questions from lawmakers about a bill seeking to restrict K-4 educators from teaching about LGBTQ topics induring a committee meeting at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

By Keya Vakil

February 1, 2023

Republican lawmakers introduced more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills nationwide in January. Seventy-one percent of LGBTQ youth—and 86% of trans and nonbinary youth—said state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ young people have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a recent poll.

North Carolina Senate Republicans are fast-tracking a new version of last year’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill that could force teachers to out transgender students to parents.

The so-called “Parents’ Bill of Rights” would:

  • require teachers to inform parents if their children request using certain pronouns at school, with rare exceptions
  • ban teaching about gender identity and sexuality in kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms in public schools 
  • and require schools to make certain reading materials available for parents to review.

That may sound reasonable and innocuous in theory, and indeed, Republicans argued on Wednesday that there is nothing controversial about the bill. But Democrats, educators, and LGBTQ advocates argue that it’s part of an ongoing trend to censor and erase anyone who identifies as LGBTQ.

“All students want to be safe at school and see themselves reflected in what they’re learning,” Ann Webb, senior policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said before the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. “This bill undermines children’s safety and is part of a national strategy to erase the existence of LGBTQ students and adults.”

Several other speakers also criticized the proposal for the effect it could have on children who question their identity and may not have supportive parents at home. This testimony had little impact on Republicans, who approved the bill out of committee. 

Following the hearing on Wednesday, Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, issued a statement denouncing the bill.

“All are welcome. That is a core belief and tenet of our NC Public Schools. Instead, this bill tells portions of our community, especially those who are LGBTQ+, that they are not welcome,” Walker Kelly said in a statement. “Many of the provisions proposed by this bill’s authors aren’t even necessary because it includes rights parents already have or changes already codified into North Carolina law.”

State Sen. Amy Galey, an Alamance County Republican and one of the bill’s main sponsors, claims that it’s meant to get parents more involved in education and prevent children from being exposed to topics and values that parents don’t approve of. 

“Parents are charged with bringing up their child in the way that they see fit, not in the way that teachers and other school personnel see fit,” Sen. Galey said at a news conference earlier on Wednesday. “Parents do not surrender their children to government schools for indoctrination opposed to the family’s values. The government is not a partner in raising our children.”

There’s no actual evidence of any such “indoctrination,” however, as Walker Kelly told the News & Observer that there is no explicit education on gender and sexuality curriculum for grades K-4. Students begin learning about sexuality in fifth grade, where they are exposed to an abstinence-only education.

During the committee hearing, Democrats made clear they welcome parental involvement, but reiterated the harm the bill could cause to LGBTQ students.

“I don’t think anyone in this room is here saying that parental involvement in education is a bad thing or is wrong,” Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Guilford) said. “We have for decades been trying to get parents more involved in their children’s education. But that’s not what this bill is about. We all know that.”

Democrats furthermore criticized Republicans for prioritizing the bill and rushing to advance it out of committee. State Sen. Natalie Murdock (D-Chatham) also pointed out that the bill would do nothing to address the state’s teacher shortage and would likely exacerbate it.

Nationwide, Republican lawmakers introduced more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills in January. 

Like the North Carolina bill, some of these bills would force teachers to out students and censor in-school discussions of LGBTQ identities and issues. The majority of the bills target transgender individuals, including many efforts to ban or limit access to potentially life-saving health care for transgender youth and limit the rights of trans students to participate in school sports.

The intensified right-wing attacks on the LGBTQ community —which are entering their third year—have taken a toll.

Seventy-one percent of LGBTQ youth—and 86% of trans and nonbinary youth—said state laws restricting the rights of LGBTQ young people have negatively impacted their mental health, according to a recent poll from Morning Consult and the Trevor Project.

The North Carolina bill would also require schools to make learning materials available for parents to review, withhold their children from reproductive health or safety education programs, and allow them to seek medical or religious exemptions from immunizations for vaccinations for diseases such as polio, measles, and chickenpox, among others.

The legislation is similar to a bill that passed the Senate last year but failed to clear the state House, as lawmakers knew Gov. Roy Cooper would veto the bill. This year, Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate and would only need one Democratic vote in the House to override a veto from Cooper.

The bill will now go to the Senate Health Committee, which will convene on Thursday. The proposal could receive a vote in the full Senate as early as next week.


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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