School board seeks to tighten parental rights policies

The board will speak with legal counsel at a work session on March 18

School board members Vicky Watson and Dustin Lisk (StanlyTV)

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly Board of Education attempted to align district policy with Senate Bill 49, also known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, at its meeting on March 7.

The changes must be passed by all state public school boards of education in order to comply with the new education reform bill passed last year by the N.C. General Assembly.

While the Stanly school board unanimously approved five policies aligning with SB-49, the board unanimously tabled Policy 1310/4002 (parental involvement) and Policy 4720 (survey of students) until a March 18 work session, as the board desired to have additional discussion with its legal representation.

Under the policies, parents of students between kindergarten and third grade would need to provide written consent before a school can administer a well-being questionnaire or health screening form to their children.

Board member Dustin Lisk made the initial request to separate the two updates from the rest of the package.

“We have a bit of a gray area under North Carolina law,” Lisk said. “I am of the opinion — as just one board member — that parents should be able to provide consent for their minor child through 12th grade or until they’re 18 or emancipated.”

He questioned why the policy didn’t apply throughout the end of high school, citing that the district had already made a 12th-grade modification on a law banning kindergarten through fourth-grade teachers from using materials related to gender identity, sexual activity and sexuality in the classroom.

Lisk also took issue with policy language that requires schools to notify parents before any changes are made to the names or pronouns used for their children in school records or by school personnel.

“Where is the consent? If the child wants to call themselves another name, what is the school system going to do?” Lisk asked. “There seems to be a gray area legally with this, and I have a problem with North Carolina law pushing it down and forcing the board to codify.”

Referencing his concerns with the policies, board member Glenda Gibson acknowledged that school boards across the state have wrestled with the new updates and have tabled votes in order to correspond with legal advisors first.

“Personally knowing that we have a work session coming up, I would love to just table this one and have some more discussion,” Gibson said. “In the meantime, can we contact our lawyer again or even have our lawyer on the phone as we discuss this in our work session with every board member?”

Stanly Schools Superintendent Jarrod Dennis agreed that pausing was a safe decision, confirming that the district would not face any sanctions over the delay.

“What I’ve asked the attorney to do is to provide us some color around that because the legislature is forcing us as a board — and all other 114 boards — to repeat their legislation in our policy,” Lisk added. “To give us some color, I want to see parental consent.”

The school board is set to hold its work session on March 18 before reconvening for its regularly-scheduled meeting inside Albemarle’s Gene McIntyre Meeting Room on April 2.