House adds discrimination protections to charter bill

Posted June 26, 2014

 The state House voted 115-0 Thursday to add language barring discrimination to the state's charter school law, two days after a debate over adding LGBT protections to the same bill roiled the state's political waters.

— The state House voted 115-0 Thursday to add language barring discrimination to the state's charter school law, two days after a debate over adding LGBT protections to the same bill roiled the state's political waters.

That measure was an amendment to a broader package of changes to state charter school laws that the Senate has already approved and which House members have changed but largely kept intact.

Although charter schools, which are publicly funded but run by private nonprofits, can be controversial, the package of changes designed to streamline their administration has been relatively uncontroversial. Senators passed the measure 49-0. Rep. Paul Stam Stam calls pedophilia, sadism 'sexual orientations'

But on Tuesday, Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, offered an amendment that would have banned charters from discrimination in hiring or admissions on the grounds of "sexual orientation or gender identity."

That amendment drew opposition from Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, who said pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality were "sexual orientations." That assertion was viewed as inflammatory because it essentially equated gay and lesbian people to child and animal abusers.

Stam's comments immediately drew rebukes from equality organizations, as well as other members of the House. He was lampooned in the national media, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is running for U.S. Senate, was forced to issue a rebuke of his senior deputy, calling Stam's remarks "not helpful." 

When the bill came to the floor again Thursday, Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford, offered an amendment that would have specifically prevented charter schools from denying entry to students based on their sexual orientation.

"You have people in this country and this state who don't quite understand the law or want to bend the law to their point of view," said Brandon, the lone openly gay member of the General Assembly.

Brandon said that he has always felt valued as a member of the legislature, but he said that's not always the case for children in school situations. 

"I'm entitled to everything you're entitled to, not because I'm black, not because I'm a Democrat, not because I'm gay, but because I'm an American," he said.

But Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, pointed to problems he saw with the Brandon amendment and called for a procedural vote that killed the measure.

Lewis then offered up his own amendment which would have prevented schools from discriminating based on definitions in federal statute. When Lewis was asked what those definitions might be, he could not explain them, and he was forced to delay consideration of his own amendment.  

That left Rep. Nathan Ramsey, R-Buncombe, to offer up a third non-discrimination amendment. His specified that a "charter school shall not discriminate against any student with respect to any category protected under the United States Constitution or under federal law applicable to the states."

It won the backing of Brandon and others who had been battling over the other two amendments, and the chamber voted 115-0 to add it to the bill.

Stam didn't speak during the debate. House members added another amendment to the bill that would exempt the names, but not salaries or positions, of charter school employees from public records. 

The overall bill passed 97-18 and now heads back to the Senate for a concurrence vote.


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  • juliomercado Jun 27, 2014

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    Federal and state dollars are going to charter and private schools. One of the largest private schools in the state is a muslim school near Raleigh. I wonder if the state actually believes they can force these standards on those folks. Same goes for catholic schools. By setting up different rules for charters, publics, and private schools, NC is begging for a discrimination lawsuit and the fed will of course side with the 'discriminated' party. This is the main reason I do NOT support public monies going to any private or charter. Muddies the waters.

  • Shamrock Jun 27, 2014

    Rep Lewis sounds like a fool. How do you submit an amendment based on definitions of federal statute, but can't recite the definitions you used to create this amendment? Common sense leaders, common sense.

  • Terry Watts Jun 27, 2014
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    They don't let the reality of a situation get in the way of their ivory tower moralizing...

  • littleriver69 Jun 27, 2014

    Do you really want your kids to go to a charter school?? Where the teachers DO NOT have to be certified teachers to work there?? If you are a high school graduate, you can teach at a charter school. Really?

  • Jack Jones Jun 27, 2014
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    I see Republicans actually fighting against legislation that would protect children from discrimination.

  • iopsyc Jun 27, 2014

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    Excellent. Thanks for the research and clarification.

  • miseem Jun 27, 2014

    Let me try to post this again.

    Stam didn't speak during the debate

    Sounds like a good move for North Carolina if he does this the rest of his time in the House.

  • Terry Watts Jun 27, 2014
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    That was my first reaction as well... but further research shows that Public Schools (which should include Charters) cannot discriminate per "sexual orientation"...

  • tracmister Jun 26, 2014

    The NCGOP is attempting to prevent the inevitable lawsuit that will claim that charter schools violate separate but equal. This isn't going to work due to the constraints that traditional public schools are under and the fact that charters don't have district boundaries. It is simply a matter of time.

  • iopsyc Jun 26, 2014

    It seems like an empty gesture.

    As I recall there aren't any federal laws that apply to the States that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

    So, the amendment sounds nice, but does nothing to protect students based on sexual orientation.