Parents worry NC bill would force schools to out gay, trans students

RALEIGH, N.C. — Critics of a North Carolina bill that advanced Thursday in the state Senate say it could jeopardize the mental health and physical safety of LGBTQ students who could be outed to their parents without consent.

Promoted by the sponsors as a means of granting parents greater control over their children’s education and health care, the bill would require schools to alert parents, in most circumstances, prior to a change in the name or pronouns used for their child, although there are exceptions if there’s suspected abuse at home. It would also prohibit instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 public school classrooms, with an exception for “student-initiated questions.”

Sen. Amy Galey, an Alamance County Republican, is sponsoring the bill, which is also called the Parents’ Bill of Rights. She says kids that young should not be learning about sexuality. She told fellow Republican lawmakers she wants parents to have more oversight.

“Relationships between students and teachers are not confidential, and they should not be,” she said.

Kelly Durden-Posey is a mom of three with a third-grader and two soon-to-be kindergartners in Cabarrus County.

“It would directly impact all of my children and what they’re learning in school,” she told Channel 9′s Anthony Kustura.

She and her wife believe the bill directly requires schools to out gay and transgender students.

“We’re teaching our kids a very strong lesson, even by leaving things out -- just erasing that entire family structure and identity,” she said.

The North Carolina Values Coalition said the Parents’ Bill of Rights would “open the lines of communication between parents and schools, help curtail indoctrination, and give parents back their fundamental rights to oversee the education and moral upbringing of their children…”

“That blows my mind that would even be controversial,” Galey said.

“I’m really concerned about the negative impact,” Durden-Posey said.

Durden-Posey argues lawmakers should instead be focused on other issues, namely, making schools a safe space for everyone.

“It doesn’t feel like a welcoming and warm place, it feels like it’s going to be exclusive in a way that’s going to discourage,” she said.

A similar version of the bill passed the state Senate last year but did not get a vote in the House, but Republican lawmakers increased their margins in the November elections.

Experts warn NC bill could harm LGBTQ youth mental health

Several mental health experts, parents and teachers told the Senate health care committee that the bill would force teachers to violate the trust of their students and could create life-threatening situations for children without affirming home environments.

“My professional opinion as a licensed clinical psychologist is that this bill will make our children less safe,” said Dr. Sarah Wilson, an assistant professor at the Duke University School of Medicine. She said schools would no longer be safe places for children to explore their identities.

The proposal advanced through the committee Thursday and now heads to the Senate rules committee. It’s one of 35 bills introduced across 14 states that seeks to limit instruction about LGBTQ topics or alert parents of changes in how their child identifies.

Chelsea Johnson, a North Carolina therapist who works with transgender and gender-nonconforming youths, ages 9-18, said students and teachers could feel like they have to censor themselves when talking about their families or identities, which could cause confusion, shame and psychological distress.

“Suppression doesn’t keep individuals from discovering who they are, but it does increase the likelihood for lifelong mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidality,” Johnson said, noting that she has seen more than 40 cases of this in her career.

One of the main reasons students confide in a school professional, she said, is because they feel physically, mentally or emotionally unsafe or at risk of harm for coming out at home.

Galey refuted claims that it would stop students with LGBTQ parents from talking about their families and said certain safeguards are included to prevent harm.

The proposal includes an exception to sharing school records with parents if there’s reason to believe the disclosure would cause the child to be abused or neglected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(WATCH BELOW: NC parents’ bill blocking K-3 LGBTQ curriculum clears Senate)