RALEIGH (February 6, 2022) – Senate Bill 49 unfairly targets vulnerable LGBTQ children and contains several provisions that would hamstring school operations and harm broad swaths of students.
According to a national survey by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ student advocacy group and crisis hotline, 45 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in 2021; 14 percent of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide; 60 percent of LGBTQ youth wanted mental health care but did not receive it in the past year. Of those youth who did not receive care, 48 percent said they did not receive care because they feared discussing mental health concerns, while 45 percent cited worries about obtaining parent or caregiver permission. SB 49 would worsen this situation.
By inhibiting open and honest conversations about students’ physical and mental health, this bill harms students, educators, and healthcare workers. The impacts would be particularly severe for students who deserve to feel safe having these conversations: those with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities, students dealing with trauma in the wake of the pandemic and recent high-profile school shootings and acts of violence, and students dealing with abuse and neglect at home.
Many of the “rights” enumerated in this bill are already established in state and federal law. Similarly, the bill’s prohibition of instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in the K-4 curriculum is redundant—sexual orientation and gender identity are not part of the K-4 curriculum. To the extent new “rights” are provided, they open new avenues for bad actors to tie up school district operations and resources by filing frivolous requests for information and objections to instructional materials. They would also have a chilling effect on open and honest conversations between students and educators, particularly for the growing number of students dealing with mental health issues.
The North Carolina Justice Center firmly believes in parental involvement in children’s education and believes in parents’ and students’ rights. Most important among these is the constitutional right to a sound basic education as established in Art. IX, Sec.2 of the North Carolina constitution and the landmark Leandro litigation.
Unfortunately, SB 49 focuses on an entirely different conception of parents’ rights that fails to provide meaningful opportunities to children while singling out the LGBTQ community. This narrow focus on certain parents’ concerns creates harmful consequences for children, teachers, families, and schools that are already dealing with challenges from staffing shortages and vacancies.