NORTH CAROLINA: NC House OKs charter school discrimination ban - WRBL

NC House OKs charter school discrimination ban

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The state House approved a measure Thursday that broadly bans discrimination against charter school applicants based on their sexual orientation or other federally and constitutionally protected classes.

The changes to the bill, which now heads to the Senate, come after Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, questioned an amendment that would have prohibited schools from turning away applicants because of their sexual orientation.

Stam said the bill needed to define sexual orientation because he argued that it could include everything from homosexuality to pedophilia if it were left open to interpretation. He was criticized by other lawmakers and gay-rights groups.

Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, introduced a new amendment clarifying the definition of "sexual orientation" in the bill. Brandon's amendment was immediately killed on the floor with a maneuver that prevented a vote, but other amendments were introduced to extend the same protections more broadly, without listing sexual orientation or sexual identity as categories.

The amendment ultimately included in the bill prohibits schools from discriminating against applicants under any category that's already protected by federal law or the U.S. Constitution. That includes sexual orientation.

Rep. Nathan Ramsey, R-Buncombe, sponsored the amendment and it passed unanimously.

"I think it does what we want morally and legally and constitutionally," said Rep. Rick Glazier, (D-Cumberland). "...Which is a recognition that no child should be discriminated against in a charter school for any reason based on their status (or) who they are."

The bill also subjects charter schools to public records law, but shields teachers' names from being publicly disclosed with their pay.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, sponsored the amendment shielding teacher names. He argued that because charter school teachers are paid differently and are not a part of the state pension system or health care plan like teachers in traditional public schools, they should not be subject to the same open records laws. He said it was needed to "eliminate the potential for creating hostile work environments," and noted that other financial records about charter schools were still public.

"You create a very hostile environment when you have to release names and salaries for every teacher," Lewis said. "...What I'm trying to prohibit is the blanket publication of the names."

The bill also would allow schools with single gender missions to limit admission to boys or girls. Charter school teachers also would be allowed to serve on the school's board of directors as non-voting members and make charter renewals valid for 10 years, unless specific conditions warrant a shorter charter. It also allows schools to expand by one grade per year if it is in good fiscal health and performing well, subject to review by the State Board of Education.

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