Craven County Schools moves to implement state’s new ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’

Craven County Board of Education

Craven County Schools is working to implement a number of changes under the new state “Parents’ Bill of Rights” law enacted in August. 

Among other provisions, the bill impacts the right to direct a child’s moral or religious training, the ability to access education and medical records and the right to make medical decisions for a child.

The bill was filed by senators Amy Galey, Michael Lee, and Lisa Stone Barnes. 

In March, the Craven County Board of Education voted 5-2 to adopt a resolution in support of N.C. Senate Bill 49, known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” Though the legislation was vetoed by NC Governor Roy Cooper, that veto was overridden by the state Senate on Aug. 16 and passed into law.

The BOE’s resolution in support of SB 49 reads, “BE IT RESOLVED, that the Craven County Board of Education applauds Senators Galey, Lee and Barnes and encourages the General Assembly to pass this bill and encourages Governor Cooper to sign the bill into law.”

While Senate Republicans have argued the legislation is needed to safeguard the role of parents in their children’s education, opponents say it poses a danger to LGBTQ young people and their relationship to educators.

During the BOE’s Dec. 12 meeting, Michelle Lee, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, provided the board with an overview of the changes in school system policy that are taking place to comply with SB 49.

According to Lee, the school system only received instructions on implementing SB 49 this week.

“We just got some of the templates from the state yesterday,” she commented. “So, we are seven days from Christmas break and we have to put this together and we have to share it and we have to get our principals up to date with that.”

Lee said it would probably be late January before the changes are in place.

“The timing is just poor but we’re doing the very best we can,” she said.

the following rights are granted under SB 49:

The right to consent or withhold consent for participation in reproductive health and safety education programs.

Parents were previously required to “opt-out” their child to any health and safety education programs. That will now change to an “opt-in” process, meaning only students whose parents have completed the opt-in form will be allowed to participate in curricula related but not limited to sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health and safety education.

The right to seek a medical or religious exemption from immunization requirements.

Under current school system policy parents may request exemption from the immunization requirements for entry to public school on medical or religious grounds. Families must provide a written statement of their religious objection to the immunization requirements.

The right to review statewide standardized assessment results as part of the State Report Card.

This access has always been available to the public. The State Report Card and all standardized assessment results are available on the NC Department of Instruction website. This information and link can also be found on the school district website.

The right to request an evaluation of their child for an academically or intellectually gifted program (AIG), or for identification of a child with a disability.

The current district AIG plan addresses evaluation for academically or intellectually gifted programs. All special education programs operating within Craven County Schools are in compliance with policies governing services for children with disabilities as adopted by the State Board of Education, Lee said.

The right to access information relating to the unit’s policies for promotion or retention, including high school graduation requirements.

Promotion and retention standards for Craven County Schools have always been listed in student handbooks.

The right to receive student report cards on a regular basis that clearly depict and grade the student’s academic performance in each class/course, the student’s conduct and the student’s attendance. 

Currently, only K-5 report cards include conduct grades. Lee said staff are working to include conduct/office referrals/discipline on the grades 6-12 report cards.

Board member Kelli Muse said she has had several teachers express their concerns about putting comments on report cards.

“They’ve kind of been led to believe that they’re not supposed to put negative comments. They actually suggested to me that they need training,” Muse said.

Board Attorney Brian Gatchel said staff would need guidance from the State Board of Education and eventually from the courts as to what the expectations are for the mandate to “clearly depict and grade the student’s academic performance.”  

“All of us have our own understanding of what the meaning of those words are, so we will do our best with those…That is the challenge that you administrators will be facing in the next month, how to try to comply with words that are not defined specifically,” Gatchel told the board. 

The right to access information relating to the N.C. public education system, state standards, report card requirements, attendance requirements, and textbook requirements.

This access is currently available to the public.

-The right to participate in parent-teacher organizations.

This is currently available to Craven County Schools parents. 

The right to opt-in to certain data collections for their child.

Parents will now be required to opt-in for the creation, sharing, or storage of a biometric scan, blood, or DNA of his/her child, except where required by law, as well as their child’s participation in protected student information surveys. 

Parents will also have to use the opt-in process to allow a health care practitioner to provide medical treatment for their child, except in emergencies. 

The use of the well-being questionnaire/health screening form with K-3 student will also fall under the opt-in requirement. Parents must receive a copy first before deciding whether to opt their child in or not. Exceptions to the opt-in requirement are the federal CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey & National Youth Tobacco Survey. These remain opt-out.

Gatchel said the federal mandate and the conflict between state and federal law would likely be addressed by the courts within the next 15-24 months.

“Somebody is not going to like those conflicts there…With a brand-new law like this, despite the best efforts of the legislators to be clear, there are inevitably ambiguities when you apply specific facts to the actual language that we have, and we have no guidance from courts. We’re left without a precise map,” Gatchel commented.

The right to review all available records of materials their child has borrowed from a school library. 

All books checked out through Craven County Schools libraries via a student’s Destiny account can be viewed. School system policy provides parents a process to inspect and object to instructional material used in their child’s school and request any materials their child has checked out from the library. Currently, parents have to request a printout from the school because they do not have direct access to Destiny.

Watch the meeting here:

By Todd Wetherington and Wendy Card co-editors. Send an email with questions or comments.