GOP bill mandating federal Parents Bill of Rights passed by U.S. House committee

National ban on transgender athletes in girls’ sports passed by U.S. House panel

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) chairs the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee

NC’s Virginia Foxx spearheads effort; Democrats accuse GOP of scapegoating vulnerable youth

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee early Thursday passed a bill on a party-line vote that would block transgender girls from competing in school sports consistent with their gender identity, a reflection of a broader push in multiple states to curb the rights of transgender student athletes.

New Meredith College poll looks at views on discrimination, Equal Rights Amendment

New polling from Meredith College examines North Carolinians’ views of discrimination and the Equal Rights Amendment, which seeks to provide protections for those experiencing it.

The full report on the poll, produced in partnership with the ERA-NC Alliance, was published Monday. It delves into how different North Carolinians see discrimination against an array of different groups – from Black and Hispanic people to LGBTQ people and religious groups like Jews and Evangelical Christians.

“The issue of discrimination and what can be done about it is as old as the United States,” the report reads. “Protecting voting rights for all citizens, the fight for equal pay for equal work, and for being treated equally in criminal matters have a long history in this country. Recently, prominent hate crimes against many groups, such as the mass shooting of Black persons in Buffalo or attacks against synagogues and their congregants, have raised additional concerns about how laws grounded in the United States Constitution can protect the country’s citizens.”

“In addition, many politicians have attacked the issue of  ‘wokeness’ as a way of targeting marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ+ community, making it more acceptable to discriminate against members of these groups,” the report reads. “It is within this cultural and political context that we decided to survey North Carolinians about their perceptions of discrimination against traditionally marginalized groups in society, such as
women and Black people. We also decided to ask citizens about their perceptions of groups not
considered to be historically marginalized groups—men and White people—to determine
similarities and differences between perceptions of discrimination between historically
marginalized and historically elevated groups.”

Read more

“Don’t say gay” legislation: A threat to the embodied classroom

I am a Black lesbian woman with 20 years teaching experience. However, when I began my teaching career at a predominantly Haitian high school, I was not out to my students. I wasn’t closeted either. As a 22-year-old novice instructor, I believed sharing my private life to my 17- and 18-year-old students would disrupt the power dynamics I thought maintained student respect and class order. Additionally, having just come out to myself and my folks five years prior to entering the classroom, coupled with not having had queer-identified role modeling teachers when I was in school, I had not yet grasped the language with which to name and understand myself.

Inadvertently conditioned, I was complicit in “not saying gay” before the bill was mandated. In other words, my Black lesbian woman’s body entered the public classroom split—a readied participant in a hidden curriculum intended to duplicate oppression.

I failed to give my students a wholistic education that could encourage them to identify and know themselves in relationship to the world, and to myself, which may have secured a humanity in them that countered America’s racist, homophobic past and present.

I should’ve been open about my sexuality—especially when LGBTQ-identified 10th and 12th grade students would lag behind the dismissal bell to glean advice from me about their relationships, talk to me about their homophobic parents, or confide in me their promises of running away from home. I should’ve been open, so that in community with me, they’d find their own safe, brave openings – so they’d have a role model. But I wasn’t open, and my hiding spilled into my lack of source materials and instruction.

I had no books I could lend them, no people I could reference, no theories from which I could instruct and hold an honest, open conversation. As a result, my LGBTQ+ students were—like Martin Luther King describes in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech—out here on a “lonely island . . . in the midst of a vast ocean.” And though Black and queer folk are un-drowned, the Americans who endeavored to cast us away then are making waves intended to wipe us out now.

DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill has made its way to North Carolina through Senate Bill 49, titled, “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which was passed earlier this month. The revision includes a prohibition of gender identity and sexuality instruction in grades K-4. However, considering sex education usually occurs in 5th grade, and of the 39 state curricula that do include sex education, only ten of them include sexual orientation—while “five states allow only negative information to be shared about homosexuality and place a positive emphasis on heterosexuality”. Senate Bill 49 is not a ban on curriculum and textbook material, but an erasure of the queer teacher and student voice.

To forbid teachers and students from discussing gender and sexual identity in the classroom is to suggest that they, that we, are not subjects in history worth reading, knowing, and cultivating relationship; it’s an absolute annihilation of human beings—a fostering of hate in the classroom. The classroom is a site of resistance where teachers and students have regular opportunity to engage loving-kindness as well as mutual respect and understanding, thereby we have to counter the forces whose initiatives aim to use academic institutions to splinter our country.

Conceding to omit classroom discourse on any one identity is a resistance to America’s humanity.


Dr. Kendra N. Bryant is an Associate Professor of English and Composition Director at North Carolina A&T State University.

Weekend reads: Medicaid expansion bill starts moving, revisiting racial discrimination in jury selection, and Dems counter with a “Parents’ and Students’ Bill of Rights”

In this issue:

1. Republican lawmakers to NC schoolchildren and teachers: The attacks will continue until morale improves  (Commentary)

In case you hadn’t noticed, North Carolina public schools, along with the children and teachers who inhabit them, are suffering mightily these days.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina reports that the number of youth suicides in our state has doubled in recent years, and that there’s been a 46% increase in the number of kids who have suffered with one or more “major depressive episodes” since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, thousands of educators are voting on the state of our public schools with their feet. As Greg Childress of NC Policy Watch reported recently, North Carolina public schools faced a 46% increase in teacher vacancies last August when compared to the previous year. By the 40th day of the current school year, that number had soared to a remarkable and downright frightening 58%. [Read more…]

2. Newly constituted NC Supreme Court revisits the issue of racial discrimination in jury selection

High court weighs whether prosecutors used a ‘cheat sheet’ to eliminate Black people from a death penalty case jury pool

The North Carolina Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday over whether a Forsyth County prosecutor used a “cheat sheet” to remove Black people from a jury in a capital trial in 1996.

Attorneys have broad leeway to excuse people from jury pools, but they cannot send them home because of the color of their skin. The pamphlet, attorneys argued Wednesday, suggested reasons lawyers could cite as a pretext for removing jurors on the basis of their race.

The year before, prosecutors who attended a training offered by the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys received a pamphlet guiding them on how they could defend removing Black prospective jurors during jury selection. [Read more…]

3. “Completely and utterly terrifying.Transgender youth face uncertain future as legislation targets their identities.

In many ways, Alex Lounsbury has been lucky. He knows that.

Now in his senior year at Atkins High School, a technology magnet in Winston-Salem, he’s happy, healthy and looking toward the future. But it wasn’t easy getting there.

Assigned female at birth, Alex knew he was transgender by the time he was in middle school. But he wasn’t ready to talk about it with parents, teachers and all of his friends right away. When he did come out to his family, they were supportive.

They just wanted me to be healthy and happy,” Lounsbury told Policy Watch this week. “I know a lot of people don’t have that from their parents. I wish everyone did. They wanted me to be myself and be who I really am.” [Read more…]

4. Democrats counter Republican-backed bill requiring schools to out transgender students to parents

State Democrats went on the offense Tuesday, countering controversial Senate Bill 49 (SB 49), a Republican-backed Parents Bill of Rights modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, with versions of their own.

House Bill 58 and Senate Bill 74, titled “Parents’ and Students’ Bill of Rights” were filed on Monday. The bills, which are the same, spell out 10 parental rights around minor children’s “upbringing, education, healthcare and mental health.”

The bills also list 14 student rights, which include a “learning environment in which discrimination in all forms is not tolerated by the public school unit or school administration, school police or security personnel, or students.” [Read more…]

5. Strategies for improving North Carolina’s struggling mental health system

Speakers agree Medicaid expansion is key; GOP lawmaker says a vote could come as early as March

Cindy Ehlers is mother to a son with disabilities who came to live with her family as a traumatized young foster child.  

Ehlers is also a chief executive officer at one of the state’s regional managed care organizations for people with mental illnesses, substance use disorders and developmental disabilities.  

A featured speaker at a legislative breakfast on mental health last week, Ehlers said she started looking into what could have been done to prevent her son from going through five foster placements before his fourth birthday.  

“What if his family had gotten services and supports in the home? Maybe he would not had to be surrendered for adoption.” Ehlers said. [Read more…]

6. NC House begins debate on Medicaid expansion bill next week

The state House Health Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Medicaid expansion bill filed Wednesday.

Health care providers and patient advocates have been pushing the legislature for years to enact Medicaid expansion. It would allow about 600,000 people, many of them adults without dependent children, to sign up for health insurance.

The federal government will pay 90% of the cost of adding people who gain insurance under Medicaid expansion. The bill would have hospitals paying the rest. [Read more…]

7. Biden in State of the Union address draws boos and shouts from a combative GOP

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden began his State of the Union address Tuesday — his first to a divided Congress — with an appeal to bipartisan priorities, but later criticized parts of the GOP agenda and got a sense of Republicans’ appetite for conflict during one combative stretch.

Biden opened the 72-minute speech with an olive branch to congressional Republicans, listing several items he’d worked with the party on over the past two years. He highlighted laws passed to spend $1.2 trillion on infrastructure, boost semiconductor manufacturing and make electoral reforms. [Read more…]

8. More than two years after George Floyd’s murder, states see only incremental change in policing, more deaths

Efforts to change police policies and practices have flagged since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in 2020.

A flurry of bills was proposed after Floyd’s murder, but only about 10% passed, said Brandon Garrett, a professor of criminal and constitutional law at Duke University Law School.

“Many of the laws addressed useful but not particularly hard- hitting subjects,” said Garrett, who directs the Wilson Center for Science and Justice. For example, few states have said when police can use force, he said. “We’ve seen a lot of activity gesturing toward the need to improve policing, but not particularly hard-hitting requirements.” [Read more…]