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What we're watching: Bills to protect students & restore classroom civility


House Select Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s Future Photo Credit: WFAE

Three bills that crossed over in the General Assembly before this month’s deadline could help restore respect and order in the classroom.

The Protect Our Students Act increases the penalties for sexual activity with a student and taking indecent liberties with students from a Class I felony with three to twelve in prison, to a Class G felony with eight to thirty-one months in prison. These penalties would be in addition to other felony charges like rape and indecent liberties with a child which carry penalties ranging from 10 months to life in prison.

The law will allow all school staff and volunteers to be charged, as well as coaches and school resource officers.

Principals, superintendents, and human resource officers would also face felony charges for failing to notify the state teachers if they break the law.

The bill passed unanimously in the House.

The Standards of Student Conduct bill was introduced in response to teachers' frustration about maintaining a respectful and orderly classroom environment.

This bill strikes the current North Carolina law that deems these acts minor infractions:

  • Cussing at a teacher

  • Bullying

  • Defying teachers’ commands

  • Physical assault

This bill would enable principals and school districts to enact stricter classroom rules for a safer, more conducive learning environment.

In the House, the bill passed 71 to 42, with Republican Jeff Elmore voting against it. He is an art teacher in the Wilkes County school system who ran on “strengthening education.” Elmore just entered the race for Lt. Governor.

​​The Equality in Education Bill addresses divisiveness and racial intimidation in schools. The legislation includes several measures to prevent stereotyping, scapegoating, and humiliation based on race, biological sex, and other immutable characteristics.

First, it bans teachers from indoctrinating students on ideas that lost acceptance long before the Jim Crow era in America.

A few examples:

  • Whites are superior to blacks and immigrants.

  • Women are inferior to men.

  • America is a country where only white Christian males are welcome

The second requirement of the bill is that teachers must provide both sides of historical narratives and not punish students who hold opinions or beliefs that differ from their own.

Third, the bill will require school districts to contact the Department of Public Instruction 30 days before agreeing to hire speakers or diversity trainers who plan to teach racial essentialism to staff or students.

The bill passed 68 to 49 in a straight party-line vote.

This collection of bills aimed at keeping school environments civil and safe was sponsored by Gaston County Rep. John Torbett.

In his leadership role on the House Education Committee, Torbett has advocated refocusing schools on educating children as the primary objective.

Rep. John Torbett

Last year, Torbett chaired a group of nine representatives charged with reimagining a better public school system. The House Select Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s Future meetings were held in various locations around the state over a year.

The committee heard input from parents, students, and teachers, as well as business and industry leaders. Classroom violence and divisive CRT lessons were frequent complaints at the meeting.

Torbett's common-sense bills this session, supported by the House, will help schools get back to the task of educating all children equally.


Last year Rep. John Torbett, Sen. Ralph Hise, Congressman Dan Bishop, and Lt. Gov. Chief of Staff Brian Livecchi discussed the challenges of passing education legislation during EFA's MakeEducation Great Again event.



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