North Dakota Legislature OKs diluted ‘parental rights’ bill after pushback from educators

The bill passed by lawmakers asserts that parents have “the right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education” of their children.

The North Dakota House of Representatives is pictured on March 17, 2023.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — Conservative proponents of giving parents more direction over their children’s upbringing won a modest victory this week in the North Dakota Capitol, but lawmakers discarded more comprehensive legislation to install so-called parental rights into state law.

Both chambers of the state Legislature voted this week to pass House Bill 1362, which asserts that parents have “the right and duty to exercise primary control over the care, supervision, upbringing, and education” of their children.

The proposal sponsored by Rep. Cole Christensen, R-Rogers, specifies that the broad rights given to parents in the bill do not supersede state laws that aim to protect children from abuse and neglect. Lawmakers pared down the legislation from three pages to just half a page.

The bill now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum, whose spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Christensen told colleagues Wednesday, April 26, the legislation helps “safeguard the foundation of our nation: the family.”


Rep. Brandon Prichard, R-Bismarck, said the “common sense bill” would “make it easier for parents to point somewhere and say, ‘I have a fundamental right according to this part of code.’”

Opponents argued the bill was unnecessary and antithetical to other legislation passed this year. Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, noted that lawmakers recently limited parents’ right to elect health care for their children by banning gender-affirming treatments for transgender minors.

A separate proposal to codify parental rights — Senate Bill 2260 — died this week when the Republican-led House of Representatives narrowly voted it down.

Before undergoing recent amendments in the House, the bill brought by Sen. Bob Paulson, R-Minot, would have:

  • Mandated written permission from parents to call a transgender child by a name other than their legal name or by their gender pronoun.
  • Required written permission from parents before students attend “any instruction or presentation that relates to gender roles or stereotypes, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or romantic or sexual relationships.”
  • Obligated medical professionals to get consent from parents before providing treatment or medication to children, except in emergency situations.

Educators spoke out against the bill, saying the extensive parental permission requirements would be overly burdensome for teachers and counterproductive for students.
Forum News Service previously reported that some educators and school officials believed the legislation would require teachers to seek parental permission before offering instruction on basic history and classic books, like Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet."

Health care lobbyists also opposed the bill, contending it would hinder doctors and nurses from treating minors.

Paulson said parents became aware during the COVID-19 pandemic of problematic subjects being taught to their kids. Giving parents more legally endowed oversight of their children’s education would address that problem, he said.

bob paulson.jpeg
North Dakota Sen. Bob Paulson, R-Minot.
Submitted photo

Rep. Jim Jonas, R-West Fargo, and other critical lawmakers said parents already have the ability to address concerns about classroom instruction with their children’s teachers.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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