On January 18, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) Board of Education discussed the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” and voted unanimously not to write policies that track the homophobic and transphobic mandates of Senate Bill 49, which is commonly called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Since then, a right-wing talking point has emerged: That CHCCS is defying the law.

Quite the contrary.

As any civics student knows, a local or state office holder takes an oath swearing to uphold state laws and constitutional provisions, not inconsistent with federal laws and constitutional provisions.

Federal law supersedes state law. Federal law bans all schools receiving federal funding from fostering a hostile educational environment for LGBTQ students.

And SB 49 does exactly that. It’s a terrible bill that creates a hostile educational environment, and forces teachers to decide between respecting the civil rights of students and following a discriminatory law that threatens the safety of LGBTQ+ students.

What the complaint filed today says

CHCCS legally cannot follow SB 49’s discriminatory provisions.

As the Campaign for Southern Equality’s 113-page complaint filed with the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights today makes clear, SB49 creates a hostile educational environment for LQBTQ students across the state in violation of Title 9 and federal equal protection guarantees:

“[The State’s] implementation of SB49 and HB574 is discriminating against LGBTQ public school students in North Carolina. This discrimination has created a hostile educational environment that harms LGBTQ students on a daily basis and, in so doing, violates Title IX. And it has placed educators in the impossible position of choosing between following the dictates of their state leaders or following federal and state law, as well as best practices for safeguarding all of their students.”

The Board wasn’t being lawless – it was following the oaths its members took.

What’s more, under the North Carolina constitution, students have a fundamental right to a sound basic education. They can’t get that in classrooms where their teachers are told what and how to teach and are required to out them to their parents. And let’s be clear: SB 49 is an attack on teachers. It requires them to violate their ethical duties by outing their students and mandates how and what they teach regardless of their professional judgment.

It’s also an attack on public schools. By creating new ways for people to sue public schools, SB 49 drains financial resources from schools already starved of money because of our anti-public school Republican legislature.

We stand behind the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education and the complaint filed today by the Campaign for Southern Equality, and plan to stay on top of this.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....