Since the age of six, I have wanted to be a teacher. At twelve years old, I became aware of the mental health epidemic that encaptures our nation’s youth. It was then that I vowed that my future classroom would be a safe space for all of my students. I have been working towards that goal during my time here at Meredith, but Senate Bill (SB) 49 will stop me from fully achieving it.
SB 49, otherwise known as the Parent’s Bill of Rights, was introduced to the North Carolina Senate on Feb. 1, 2023, and passed to the North Carolina House of Representatives on Feb. 7, 2023. The bill has been coined as “The NC gay bill” and undermines the rights of students to feel safe and seen in their learning environment. This bill states, “The governing body of a public school unit shall adopt procedures to notify a parent of the following: (5) Prior to any changes in the name or pronoun used for a student in school records or by school personnel, notice to the parent of the change.”
This means that if a student comes out to their teacher and requests that they are referred to by a different name and/or pronouns, the teacher must notify the parents. The bill does say that if the teacher suspects “that disclosure would result in the child becoming an abused juvenile or neglected juvenile,” they are allowed to not inform the parents.
My question is this: how does one prove that there was reasonable proof that the student would be abused or neglected if they were outed to their parents? If a teacher does not adhere to this new standard, they will be brought before a hearing committee where they could be “subject to disciplinary action.” How many students are going to have a safe place to come out now? Where are they going to be able to have conversations about gender and sexuality identities if they can’t at home?
I am studying to be a theatre teacher. It is thought the arts tend to be a safe space for all gender identities and sexualities. I have spoken with a few of my friends that said their theatre teachers in high school were their safe space and their saving grace. This bill takes away my opportunity to safely do that for my students. Multiple superintendents and principals are asking teachers to use their best moral judgment when it comes to this new bill. My moral judgment is that I cannot and will not out a child to their parents. If they are not ready or do not feel safe to come out, it is not my place to do it for them. I will stand by my students and do everything I can to protect them. It is my job both as a teacher and as a human being.
I decided to write this article to spread awareness about the bill that will greatly affect our youth. I encourage you to call our representatives. Make your voice heard. Show them that we will not go down without a fight.
SB 49 has been passed to the House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority. If passed, the bill will go to Governor Roy Cooper, who is expected to veto SB 49. If the bill makes it that far and gets vetoed, the bill will return to the Senate who will need a three-fifths majority vote of those present to override the veto.
Read all of Senate Bill 49 here.
Written by Anna Prince, Reporter