On Wednesday, July 5, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” for North Carolina schools and families. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that, in order for him to veto it, the legislature had to pass it, which they did on June 29. (Sadly, both the vote and the veto were along party lines, making a veto override unlikely.)
Senate Bill 49, which closely resembles bills passed in other states this year (Iowa Senate File 496) and last (Florida House Bill 1557), would provide that “A parent has the right to…direct the education and care of his or her child,” to “direct the upbringing and moral or religious training of his or her child,” and “to make health care decisions for his or her child,” among other basic family rights.
Unfortunately, it drew opposition from lawmakers (including Governor Cooper) who opposed its provisions to prohibit public schools from teaching sex ed related courses in kindergarten through third grade and to notify parents whenever there is a change in their child’s mental or physical health or a change in the child’s name at school.
Upon signing his veto, Cooper said the bill would “hamper . . . the important and sometimes lifesaving role of educators as trusted advisers when students have nowhere else to turn,” implying that parents cannot be trusted with their child’s physical or mental health.
The US Supreme Court has established the legal presumption “that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children” (Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584  at 602). But Cooper apparently believes public school officials have all the skill and knowledge they need to override this legal presumption on their own authority.
This is in direct conflict with the constitutional standard of parental rights.
There are currently many different opinions on the questions of gender and sexuality. But on this much we are clear: government agents, including in our public schools, should not be keeping secrets from parents about their minor children.
To quote from the Parham case again, “The law’s concept of family rests on the presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions” (ibid).
Apparently, it is exactly this parental capacity for judgment that Governor Cooper wants to keep out of North Carolina’s classrooms. And that is simply wrong.
While this defeat is disappointing, it was not unexpected. Nor is it the end.
Every year, we work with faithful volunteer leaders and allied organizations in the states to promote new policies and legislative models to protect children by empowering their parents, as S.B. 49 would have done. Sometimes, the work is easy, and the bill passes in a single legislative session. But that is the exception.
More often, a bill takes several years and must be brought back through three to five legislative sessions (sometimes more!) before it passes. Florida’s Parents’ Bill of Rights, which passed in 2020, was first introduced three sessions prior. Iowa’s Senate File 496, which just passed this spring, was on its second session, our fundamental parental rights language having first been introduced in 2021.
So, we are not giving up on North Carolina or any of the other states where parental rights failed to pass this year.
I enjoy it much more when I get to tell you about the wins, like this year’s victories in Iowa, Alabama, and North Dakota. But it is the temporary setbacks that tell us we still have so much work left to do.
Children and families are at stake, so we cannot stop now.
Would you join us to bring this issue back next year in the states that came up short in 2023? Could you pass along this or any of our recent emails to your friends and family and ask them to sign up at ParentalRightsFoundation.org to follow our alerts for their own state?
And could you partner with us today with your best gift to keep us moving forward to fresh victories in the year ahead?
Thank you for standing with us to protect children by empowering parents—those who know, love, and defend them best!