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Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' board is ready for legal fight over 'Parents Bill of Rights'

Members of the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools' Board of Education voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to a district policy that defies the recently passed state law commonly known as the 'Parents Bill of Rights.'
Courtesy of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Members of the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools' Board of Education voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to a district policy that defies the recently passed state law commonly known as the 'Parents Bill of Rights.'

The chairperson of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education said the board is prepared for any legal consequences after a vote to defy the so-called Parents Bill of Rights.

School board chair George Griffin said board members consulted with their district attorney before voting unanimously last Thursday on a local parent involvement policy that rejects two parts of the recent law, which took effect in January.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City school board’s proposed local policy would not require school employees to notify parents if a student changes their name or pronouns, and it would not ban instruction on gender identity before fifth grade.

Griffin said board members believe those two clauses in the state law are discriminatory.

“We think it does more harm than good, and so our first priority is to protect our students. We'll deal with the possible legal or political ramifications as they come up,” Griffin told WUNC. “We don't know what that'll look like.”

Republican officials and candidates have criticized the school board’s vote. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt called the vote “unacceptable” on a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We went into this clear-eyed, in the sense that we knew there would be some pushback. Anytime you challenge a law or regulation, you can expect that,” Griffin said. “We're not interested in getting into a social media war with anybody. We're not trying to pick a fight. We're not looking for trouble. We are looking to protect the best interests of our students.”

Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry said he plans to address “this lawless behavior” in the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2024 legislative session.

“The General Assembly has really unlimited responses available, because we are in the short session, and we would be able to craft whatever law we felt was appropriate,” Perry told WUNC.

Perry said he believes a majority of the General Assembly finds the school board’s actions “unacceptable." Perry said he’s concerned that the school board is disregarding the rule of law.

“If you don't like a law, there's a process that you go about to change it — and voting to ignore parts of the law is not part of that process,” Perry said.

When asked whether he would like to see a state agency pursue arrests of school board members, Perry said that response sounded “a bit extreme.”

The Parents Bill of Rights does include an enforcement mechanism, by which a parent can file a complaint about a school board’s policy to receive a parental concern hearing by the State Board of Education. The state board approved a policy outlining parental concern hearings in November.

Griffin said the board’s attorney instructed board members on astate law governing local boards of education before they took a preliminary vote on their proposed policy.

“We have a law in North Carolina that says school board members must protect the best interest of all students, and it also says school board members must follow all state laws. That's a bind,” Griffin said.

Griffin added that the board has received overwhelming support from parents, students and staff in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, via emails either calling for or applauding the vote.

The school board has so far only passed the policy on first reading, so it will be up for another vote in February.

The North Carolina School Boards Association declined a request for comment.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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