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The timing of the passage of the so-called “Parents’ Bill of Rights” has made life difficult for school leaders, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said on Thursday.
Leaders dealing with the start of a new school year and probable COVID surge want to see implementation of the law delayed until Jan. 1.
Under Senate Bill 49 passed by the Republican-led General Assembly on Aug. 16, school districts must meet the law’s requirements by Sept. 15.
SB 49 requires educators to alert parents if their child changes their name or pronoun at school. It also restricts instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms.
Truitt said school districts need more time to meet the requirements of the law.
“There is a lot of concern about the timing of the passage of this bill — very, very bad timing for our school leaders,” Truitt said. “Because of that timing, we have been advocating along with many others that the deadlines and effectiveness dates for many of these things that our districts and our charters are compelled to do be bumped to Jan. 1.”
Truitt said she and others with concerns are having conversations with lawmakers and feel good about the direction those talks are going.
There are also steps the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) must take that the State Board of Education must approve before districts can fully implement the requirements, Truitt said.
“Districts can’t begin to do some of this work until they get those things from the Department of Public Instruction,” she said.
The superintendent also noted that there are concerns about the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) that asks about student health behaviors in grades 6-12. SB 49 requires parental permission before students can take such surveys.
Students must opt into the survey, which means permissions slips must be sent to parents and returned before students can participate. Before SB 49, students opted out of the survey.
NCDPI has requested a “carve out” or an exemption because the YRBS is an anonymous survey, Truitt said. Also, the information taken from the survey is valuable to districts’ efforts to promote student health, she said.
“[The survey] includes tobacco usage questions that we really want to make sure our districts have access to and that our students take,” Truitt said.
The 2022 North Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey found that one in eight high school students use a tobacco product. E-cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product with an estimated 43,800 high school users and 12,500 middle school users.
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