Democratic legislators and sign-waving protesters gathered at the State House Tuesday to vocally oppose the Parents Bill of Rights legislation proposed by Republican leadership in Concord.
Despite polling showing Granite State voters overwhelmingly support empowering parents over school administrators, legislative Democrats launched a bare-knuckled attack against the legislation. The flashpoint for disagreement is Republicans’ insistence that parents have the right to know what their children are doing at school, including behavior related to sex and gender. Democrats attempted to label that anti-LGBT, claiming parents are simply too dangerous to be allowed to have that information.
“Legislation like SB 272 can, and will, cause serious, irreparable harm to LGBTQ+ youth and their families, harm that can end up being fatal for our young citizens,” said state Sen. Donovan Fenton (D-Keene).
Republican lawmakers have made the parental rights legislation (HB10/SB272) a top priority.
“A parent’s role in the development of their child is critical, and the consequences of purposely hiding information from parents set a dangerous precedent for school staff and vulnerable students alike,” said Senate Majority Leader Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), a sponsor of the bill.
“As a father of four children, it is inconceivable that I would not be involved in my children’s education and know what is going on with them while they are at school,” added Senate President Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro).
The legislation Democrats denounced declares parents have “the right to direct the education and care of his or her minor child; the right to direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of his or her minor child,” and “the right to access and review all school records relating to his or her minor child.”
Democrats and LGBT activists are particularly opposed to the measure because it would end school administrators’ authority to keep information about children’s behavior secret from their parents.
Sen. Sue Prentiss (D-Lebanon) said in a statement that children have a right to privacy from their own parents, and they “should be given the space to share information on their identities in their own time.” That would be information other adults — teachers and administrators — already have.
It is not an abstract issue. Manchester school administrators and teachers hid the fact a child was adopting a different gender while at school from a concerned mother. The mother sued, and a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge dismissed her lawsuit last year, saying New Hampshire law doesn’t give parents the right to decide how their children will be treated at school.
“(T)he right to make decisions about the care, custody, and control of one’s child is not absolute,” Judge Amy Messer wrote.
The state Supreme Court will take up the appeal of that lower-court ruling.
Republicans argue school officials will never love children as much as their parents do. Democrats like state party chairman Ray Buckley say parents are too dangerous to be told about their children’s behavior.
“As a gay man myself, I find it astonishing that the NHGOP is oblivious to the severe challenges LGBTQ youth face,” Buckley said Tuesday. “Attacking trans kids is just the latest obsession by GOP.”
Buckley has previously claimed that parents might “beat their kids to death” if they’re allowed to know what their children are doing at school.
A recent NHJournal poll found Granite State voters support parents’ rights by wide margins. In the specified case of student behavior regarding sex or gender, 78 percent support a parent’s right to know. That includes 83 percent of independents and 61 percent of Democrats.
Asked if they are more or less likely to vote for a local official or school board member who is committed to protecting parental rights, 67 percent said of voters said more while just 19 percent said less.
Elected officials should remember that, said Adam Waldeck, president of 1776 Action.
“The issue is parents’ rights, not personal views about sex education or the transgender issue. Democrats are pulling children away from their own parents and giving an inappropriate amount of unaccountable power to bureaucrats and administrators. Their willingness to put politics between parents and their own children is the reason New Hampshire needs a parents bill of rights.”
Any parents bill of rights will have to get through the closely-divided House. Thus far, no Democratic House members have been willing to break with party leadership to support it, despite the public’s strong support. In the Senate, Bradley says the GOP is not going to back down.
“New Hampshire proudly hosts thousands of outstanding teachers in our classrooms, but schools have no right to keep secrets from parents. It is the parent’s job to love and guide their children and make decisions that are in their best interests. Senate Republicans will always stand up for New Hampshire parents,” Bradley said.