Professors Walk Out Of Ceremony Honoring Republican State Senator Who Sponsored ‘Parents’ Bill Of Rights’


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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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Multiple University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) faculty members walked out of a ceremony honoring Republican state Sen. Michael Lee on Tuesday night while students rallied for LGBTQ+ rights outside the venue, WWAY News, a local station, reported.

Lee was invited to campus to receive the Razor Walker Award for his help with the construction of the Isaac Bear Early College Facility, according to WWAY. Faculty and students were critical of Lee, who sponsored the state’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that would require schools to notify parents if a child wants to go by a different name or pronoun and bars “instruction on gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in kindergarten through fourth grade. (RELATED: Professor Encourages Students To Protest Speaker Who Called For ‘Eradicating’ Transgenderism: REPORT)

Caitlin Ryan, an associate professor in the Watson College of Education, was one of the faculty members who walked out of the ceremony as Lee was presented with the award, according to WWAY. The walkout was met with cheers from outside protesters who held signs reading “It’s okay to say gay, Senator Lee” and “Gay rights are human rights.”

“This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s just about acknowledging that my kid should get to see himself and his family in books the way that every kid should get to see themselves and their families and their communities in books,” Ryan told WWAY. “It just doesn’t feel like too much to ask to help teach kids about the world around them.”

Critics dub Lee’s bill, which passed the Senate in February, as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, WWAY reported. The nickname is a nod to a similar bill signed into law by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022 that bars teaching students up to third grade about gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Essentially, it’s you can’t embed sexuality within the curriculum within the [kindergarten] through 4th grade and that’s the gist of it,” Lee told WWAY. “It doesn’t prevent kids and families from talking about their family environment, especially when asked.”

Critics also wore rainbow flag pins and shirts inside the venue during the ceremony and hung pride flags over their chairs, WWAY reported.

The award is given to recipients who “advocate for and support our children, families and communities in different ways,” according to a university statement sent to the Daily Caller News Foundation. Lee received the award “for his work with the educational community, most specifically his advocacy and support of the early college partnership between the university and the New Hanover County schools, support that without his direct engagement and sustained commitment the community would not have realized.”

Ryan and Lee did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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