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Swain school board will revise policy to comply with new law

Swain school board will revise policy to comply with new law

After the Parents Bill of Rights passed the General Assembly in August, local boards of education are determining how to align school policies with the legislation. Swain County Schools will have to revise several of its existing policies to come under compliance with the new law. 


“We are starting that process, but there is a tremendous amount of work,” Swain County Schools Superintendent Mark Sale told the Swain County School Board during a Sept. 11 meeting.

The controversial Parents Bill of Rights, Senate Bill 49, bars instruction on gender identity or sexuality for students in kindergarten to fourth grade. These subjects have never been taught in these grades. In addition, the bill would require schools to notify a parent if their child changes their name or pronouns.

Among the other parental “rights” in the bill are the ability to skip sex education classes, obtain medical or religious exemptions from immunization requirements, review statewide standardized assessment results, inspect public school textbooks, access information on promotion and retention policies, receive report cards on a regular basis and review materials their child has borrowed from the library.

As the law currently reads, it is supposed to have taken effect with the start of the 2023-24 school year.

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“I am hearing from strong, dependable sources that they are going to extend that deadline for starting because it came to a select committee and it takes so much work to get all these pieces together,” said Sale.

In a legislative update, the North Carolina School Board Association said there are several “serious timing issues’’ that it is working to address. By the time SB 49 became law, students across the state of North Carolina were already in school, leaving no time for implementation. However, school boards like Swain’s have now received legal advice that they do not need to rush to comply with the law; rather, that it is more important to get the compliance right.

There are six policies that Swain County Schools may need to revise to comply with the law. The most significant changes to school board policies will be those that address parental involvement.

“The policy revisions that I already shared with you came directly from the North Carolina School Board Association,” Sale told the school board. “They sat down with state law 160 and decided where these pieces flow. The largest adjustments are in 1310.” 

Policy 1310, parental involvement, “recognizes the critical role of parents in the education of their children and in the schools.” This policy outlines parental involvement plans that schools must have in place, communication and conferences with parents, opportunities to withhold consent or opt out of activities and required parental permission. 

“The policy is 1310, the revisions on that are extensive,” said Sale. “I need more time to look at that, and I need time to wait until the legislature decides what they’re going to do with the activation dates for that policy.” 

Another of the policies that will be up for revision is 5210, distribution and display of non-school material. This policy addresses display of compliant political signs in the right-of-way during designated periods, distribution and display by students, distribution and display by non-students, distribution and display standards for non-school materials and procedures for requesting distribution or display of non-school materials.

“All of the revisions are coming straight out of the Parents Bill of Rights. If it wasn’t for the Parents Bill of Rights, we wouldn’t be looking at those other six policies with the same intensity that we are,” said Sale.

For many school boards, including Swain, pre-existing board policies address several of the rights laid out in the new law. Swain County Schools will hold a work session with the board to address these policies and figure out how to come under compliance.

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