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North Carolina school board backs away from law on policies on pronouns, gender identity instruction

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Officials say a central North Carolina school board’s decision to omit two LGBTQ-related provisions that the General Assembly directed districts to comply with could lead to legal complaints or action by legislators.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board voted unanimously Thursday for initial approval of several updated policies in keeping with Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation enacted in 2023 by Republicans in control of the legislature.

But the board declined to include a provision to create a procedure whereby schools alert parents before a student goes by a different name or pronoun and another to bar instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms.

Board members at Thursday’s meeting acknowledged that failing to implement a requirement of the law could bring legal problems. But most community members, students and teachers who wrote to the board or spoke at Thursday’s meeting said the law discriminates against LGBTQ students and could cause them more harm, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

A second vote on the policy update will happen at a future meeting.

“We’re not looking to be contrary or get into any kind of struggle with legislators or anybody else, and we hope that won’t happen,” Board Chair George Griffin told the newspaper Friday. “Anytime you go up against a regulation or a law, you run the risk of people not being happy about that.”

Republicans who enacted the law by overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on the legislation said the broader measure is designed to empower parents with their child’s K-12 education. The law also gives parents a process to review and object to textbooks and other instructional material and a process for getting their grievances addressed.

Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry, a Lenoir County Republican, wrote on social media Friday suggesting the legislature could act to address omissions of some of the policy updates. The General Assembly is expected to reconvene for work in April.

“A supermajority voted for this legislation,” Perry wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I look forward to addressing this lawless behavior in the short session. This presents a great opportunity to see where others stand on law and order.”

Democratic Sen. Graig Meyer of Orange County, a former social worker in the district, said he is proud of the district’s decision and said the law should be challenged in court.

“As I told my General Assembly colleagues in the debate of the bill, if I were back as a social worker in (the district) and I had to decide between caring for a student and your stupid law, I would choose the student every single time,” Meyer said.

Most school districts have revised their policies to comply with the new law. The Campaign for Southern Equality and other groups filed a federal complaint against the Buncombe County school system for adopting policies aligned with the law, saying they are creating a hostile educational environment for LGBTQ students, families, staff and faculty.