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DEI Director – And BLM Board Member — Out at Exeter School District

After months of concerns from district parents about his connection to anti-Israel protests, Andres Mejia, the head of SAU 16’s Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Justice (DEIJ) Department, is resigning.

The news comes just days after an NHJournal report highlighting the six-figure salaries some DEI directors are receiving from public schools in the state.

However, the district says there is nothing to read into Mejia leaving his post this month, well before the end of the school year.

Mejia did not respond to a request for comment. But SAU 16 Superintendent Esther Asbell said he simply needed to start his new job.

“Andres was asked by his new employer to be available as soon as possible,” Asbell said.

His departure was first reported by Granite Grok.

Mejia, reportedly earning a $153,380 salary, has been a controversial figure since first being hired. He serves in the leadership of the Black Lives Matter Seacoast chapter, which has been helping organize anti-Israel protests for months.

Like many similar protests that claim to be pro-Palestinian, the group started agitating against Israel immediately after Hamas terrorists murdered 1,300 Israelis on Oct. 7. Chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” viewed by the Anti-Defamation League as a call for genocide, feature heavily at those demonstrations.

When at least one parent complained to Asbell about Mejia’s role in BLM during the anti-Israel protests, asking how he could defend students against bigotry when BLM was engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, Asbell defended Mejia.

“Upon review of (district policy) I do not believe our DEI-J director is in violation of the policy by holding a position as Vice Chair of Seacoast BLM,” Asbell wrote earlier this year.

It’s not the first time Mejia’s BLM association raised concern in the school community. Challenged by parents during a public meeting in 2021, Mejia refused to distance himself from the group.

“I am Black, and I can never separate myself from Black Lives Matter,” Mejia said. “My life matters.”

Since then, BLM Seacoast has publicly opposed having police officers in public schools, giving qualified immunity protection for police, and it supports having government monitoring of the personal social media accounts of police officers.

Though he’s not a classroom teacher, Mejia is also one of the lead plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit over the so-called “divisive concepts” law. The pending lawsuit was filed soon after the legislature passed an anti-discrimination law that banned teachers from “teaching that any one group is inherently inferior, superior, racist or oppressive.” The words “divisive concepts” appear nowhere in the actual statute, though the term is often used by progressives opposed to the law.

Ironically, Mejia is one of a handful of other DEI professionals whose role is to dictate what teachers are allowed to teach.

Asbell said SAU 16 is ready to hire another DEIJ director.

No Deal Likely in Exeter “Two Genders” Lawsuit

A Superior Court judge has ordered mediation in the lawsuit brought after Exeter High School officials punished a Catholic student for saying there are two genders.

However, Ian Huyett, the attorney for the student and his family, says a settlement is unlikely given Exeter’s current stance, expressed in a recent letter to the school community.

“Given the contents of the letter that (Superintendent) David Ryan sent out on Wednesday, I don’t anticipate that they’ll have any interest in doing that,” Huyett said. 

Ryan sent the letter last week, doubling down on the district’s stated embrace of diversity after Judge David Ruoff issued the scheduling order, which stipulates the two sides attempt to settle the case through an Alternative Dispute Resolution.

“Despite our best intentions to create a safe and welcoming environment for all in our community, we have members in our community who continue to experience feelings of hate and disrespect,” Ryan wrote. “We are a community of acceptance. This means we welcome you with all of your uniqueness, no matter your race, religion/spiritual beliefs, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability/disability, or family structure.”

The student, known in the lawsuit as M.P., claims he was disciplined for expressing his views, informed by his Catholic faith, that there are only two genders. M.P. claims he expressed these views outside of school and off the football field.

Exeter High School and SAU 16 officials struck back saying M.P. was disciplined for being a bully, not for expressing his religious views. The district’s attorney, Michel Eaton claims M.P. is not the victim of religious discrimination. Instead, he was benched for one game by his coach for violating the team’s code of conduct. The benching had nothing to do with the school’s transgender discrimination policies, according to Eaton.

“M.P.’s coach did not decide to bench M.P. based upon M.P.’s opinion that there are only two genders, nor would he. Rather, M.P. was benched for using crude, inappropriate, and disrespectful language while communicating with Student Doe. This behavior was consistent with M.P.’s documented history of bullying and inappropriate behavior, including such behavior on the school bus and such behavior targeted at Student Doe specifically,” Eaton wrote in the district’s response to the lawsuit.

Student Doe, who is not transgendered, is the student with whom M.P. had a reportedly heated conversation about gender and sexuality while on the school bus. This conversation later continued via text messaging, according to court records. Student Doe, in turn, reported the conversation to M.P.’s coach, Eaton wrote.

“M.P.’s coach took what he believed to be an appropriate and limited remedial measure to teach and ensure the respect that is expected of all student athletes,” Eaton wrote.

Huyett claims in the lawsuit that M.P. was punished for expressing his opinion, not for violating any rule.

“M. P. did not harass or demean any student, but simply expressed his views on a contentious cultural issue,” Huyett said in a statement.

Huyett is an attorney with Cornerstone, a conservative Christian organization. While Cornerstone is defending M.P.’s First Amendment rights in this case, the state’s ACLU has been silent. Instead, New Hampshire’s ACLU is part of a federal lawsuit, along with Exeter’s Andres Mejia, against the state over the so-called “banned concepts” law. Mejia is the director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice for the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, and a board member of the Black Lives Matter Seacoast organization.

The anti-discrimination law challenged by the ACLU and Mejia, signed by Gov. Chris Sununu as part of the state budget, prohibits students from being taught that “a person, because of their membership in one or more identified group(s), is inherently either: (1) racist, sexist, or oppressive, consciously or unconsciously or (2) superior or inferior to people of another identified group.”

Progressive UNH Prof Gives Course Credit for Accusations of Racism

A UNH professor requires students to find someone to accuse of being racist, homophobic, or ableist and “call them out” in order to get credit for a communications class at the state-funded college.

Edward Reynolds, a communications professor and weight lifting coach, gained notoriety this week on social media when one of the requirements for his class hit the “Libs of TikTok” account. 

According to the course work posted online, Reynolds requires his students to record the interaction they have with the person they are “calling out” for alleged bigotry and submit the recording in order to get graded. 

Calling out, sometimes described as “calling in,” is when someone is confronted over ideas or statements that are deemed politically incorrect. Reynolds, who graduated from college in Australia, instructed students, as part of their graded coursework, to seek out people in their lives who they deem are engaging in racism, homophobia, or ableism, through their language or actions.

“Call in someone on their ableist, racist, or homophobic use of language, for microaggressions (or an act of racism) towards a person of color, homophobia against LGBTQI+, or ableism against a disabled person,” the course description states. “You must also record calling them in, in order to get credit.”

The potential problems are self-evident: People targeted by Reynolds’ students may object to being called racist or bigots. They might object to being recorded. There’s even the risk of a physical confrontation.

Reynolds claims in the course description that the recordings and the names of the people “called out/called in” will not be made public. But neither Reynolds nor anyone from UNH answered New Hampshire Journal’s questions about how that anonymity will be guaranteed.

Reynolds declined to respond to multiple requests for comments, as did the UNH media relations team.  Representatives for the University System of New Hampshire declined to answer questions about Reynolds’ coursework as well.

State Rep. Joe Alexander (R-Goffstown) called Reynolds’ class a “witch-hunt.”

“As far as I’m concerned the public has a right to know why tax dollars are being spent on student witch-hunts. Make no mistake, New Hampshire institutions of higher learning are not immune to the sort of ‘woke-ness’ that is prevalent in the swampiest parts of this country. The public needs answers,” Alexander said.

Manchester’s branch of the NAACP did not respond to questions on Thursday whether “calling out” furthers goals of reducing racism and fostering racial understanding. Former President Barak Obama recently pointed out that “call-outs” give the illusion of effecting change, even when that is not true. 

“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong word or verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, because, ‘Man, you see how woke I was. I called you out.’ That’s not activism,” Obama said.

Karoline Leavitt, a candidate in the GOP primary for the 1st District Congressional seat, said Thursday that Reynolds’ course is a prime example of wokeism run amok.

“Let me be very clear – students should not be asked to accuse one another of racism,” Leavitt said. “Unfortunately, our teachers unions and educators have forgotten they work on behalf of the taxpayers, and our curriculum is failing our students.”

Gail Huff Brown, another GOP candidate, said Reynolds is out-of-touch.

“If one of my daughters had an assignment like this I would have been appalled and I suggest this professor get out of their academic bubble and visit the real world where the vast majority of us are friendly, tolerant, and welcoming of all people,” Huff Brown said.

Last year, New Hampshire’s legislature banned public employees from teaching that any person or group is superior or inferior based on their race, creed, or sexual identity. However, that law specifically excludes the state’s public college system. A proposal introduced this year, HB 1313, would apply the anti-discrimination law to New Hampshire colleges. 

Youngkin Follows NH’s Lead with Anti-CRT ‘Tip Line’

Virginia’s newly elected Republican Gov. Glenn Younkin is borrowing a page from New Hampshire by setting up an email tipline for parents to report on teachers who use Critical Race Theory (CRT) curriculum in the classroom.

Youngkin, who won an upset victory for governor in a state Joe Biden carried by 10 points a year earlier, campaigned hard against the use of CRT in Virginia classrooms. On his first day in office, he signed an executive order banning “divisive concepts” like CRT from the state’s classrooms.

He told media this week the email tipline allows parents to report teachers “behaving objectionably.”

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports and observations that they have that will help us be aware of things like ‘privilege bingo,’ be aware of their child being denied their rights that parents have in Virginia. And we’re going to make sure we catalog it all,” Youngkin said. “This gives us a great insight into what’s happening at a school level, and that gives us further ability to make sure we’re rooting it out.”

“Privilege bingo” is an actual classroom exercise used as part of a CRT-based curriculum to highlight racial differences among students and label certain children “privileged” based on race, regardless of their actual circumstances. The Fairfax County, Va. public school system apologized for using it after parents found out about the classroom exercise and complained.

Youngkin’s moves mimic those taken by the New Hampshire Department of Education. Last fall, Commissioner Frank Edelblut set up a website that allows Granite State parents to report violations of the state’s new anti-discrimination law. New Hampshire did not directly ban the teaching of any specific concept but instead banned teaching that any group was superior or inferior based on race, creed, or sexual orientation.

“This website in support of the commission provides parents with an online site to address concerns that their child may have been discriminated against,” the DOE said in a statement when the site was launched. “Parents, guardians, and teachers are able to submit a public education intake questionnaire that will be reviewed by a [state Human Rights] commission intake coordinator to determine if there are grounds to file a formal complaint.”

Edleblut did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but his staff indicated that any complaints filed through the website would go directly to the state’s Human Rights Commission (HRC). Edleblut has said that by going to the HRC, the due process rights of any teacher accused of violating the law will be protected.

Ahni Malachi, the commission’s executive director, refused to say Tuesday how many cases, if any, had been referred to her office since the website was published. She did say that no cases have been fully adjudicated at this time. But it is not clear if there are any cases pending before the commission, are still in the investigative stage, or are heading for mediation. The commission’s website lacks transparent information on the number of cases handled, and there is no public data available on the website beyond 2018 numbers.

NHJournal has reported on multiple Granite State school systems, including Manchester, Laconia, and Litchfield, that were found to be using CRT-inspired content.

New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination reporting system caught flak from teachers unions after it was learned a group of activists, Moms For Liberty, was offering a $500 bounty for the first verified report made to the commission. While Edleblut distanced himself from the bounty scheme, the heads of New Hampshire’s two teachers unions accused him of engaging in dangerous vigilantism.

“Totally innocent teachers could lose their teaching license over claims that are not backed up by any evidence. Edelblut has declared a war on teachers, a war that the overwhelming majority of New Hampshire parents will find repulsive,” AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes said.

Meg Tuttle, president of the NEA-NH, said Edleblut was keeping New Hampshire children from learning about injustice.

“Politicians like Commissioner Edelblut are using the dog whistle strategy of distraction, division, and intimidation in their efforts to dictate what teachers say and block kids from learning our shared stories of confronting injustice to build a more perfect union,” Tuttle said.

To date, no bounty has been paid, according to Moms For Liberty. Both the AFT and NEA have since filed independent federal lawsuits against the state over the anti-discrimination law.

The lawsuits incorrectly describe the law as banning the teaching of “divisive concepts.”

NH NEA and ACLU Team Up for Another “Banned Concepts” Lawsuit

New Hampshire’s biggest teacher’s union, the National Education Association-NH, and the state chapter of the ACLU have joined forces to combat New Hampshire’s new anti-discrimination law.

Unlike a previously filed lawsuit that used the phrase “divisive concepts” 103 times (a phrase that does not appear anywhere in the law), the lawsuit has updated its language, referring to the law as the “banned concepts” law.

The phrase “banned concepts” does not appear anywhere in the new law, either.

On Monday, the groups announced a new federal lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Concord against the state’s new anti-discrimination law.

“This unconstitutionally vague law disallows students from receiving the inclusive, complete education they deserve, and from having important conversations on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the classroom,” said Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire.

Meg Tuttle, the president of New Hampshire’s NEA branch, claimed the law prevents teachers from teaching full facts around controversial subjects.

“Parents and educators agree students should learn complete facts about historical events like slavery and civil rights. They agree that politicians shouldn’t be censoring classroom discussions between students and their teachers and that educators shouldn’t have their licenses and livelihoods put at risk by a vague law,” Tuttle said.

The problem for Bissonnette and Tuttle is the law passed this year does nothing to ban any concept from being taught but instead bans students from being discriminated against. Indeed, the law explicitly states it does not prohibit, “as a larger court of academic instruction,” teaching about this history of racism, sexism, etc. 

“I don’t think there’s any statement of facts (in the lawsuit) they can make other than people’s feelings,” said state Rep. Keith Ammon, R-New Boston, one of the legislators behind the bill. “The left created this false image of what the law actually states.”

According to the legal guidance issued to schools by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Department of Education, the law does nothing to stop any facet of American history from being taught in the classroom.

“Nothing prohibits the teaching of historical subjects including, but not limited to: slavery, treatment of the Native American population, Jim Crow laws, segregation, treatment of women, treatment of LGBTQ+ people, treatment of people with disabilities, treatment of people based on their religion, or the Civil Rights movement. Nor does anything prohibit discussions related to current events including, but not limited to: the Black Lives Matter movement, efforts to promote equality and inclusion, or other contemporary events that impact certain identified groups,” the legal advice from the Attorney General states. 

Instead, the law prohibits students being taught that “a person, because of their membership in one or more identified group(s), is inherently either: (1) racist, sexist, or oppressive, consciously or unconsciously or (2) superior or inferior to people of another identified group.”

Ammon said the lawsuit, like the error-filled lawsuit filed last week by New Hampshire’s American Federation of Teachers, is simply a fundraising stunt by the unions and the ACLU.

“They are using it to fundraise off their woke base,” Ammon said. “This how far the ACLU has fallen, they are challenging an anti-discrimination law in federal court.”

The lawsuit lists Andres Mejia as one of the plaintiffs. Mejia is director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice for the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, the school district where a Catholic student was punished for expressing tenets of his faith to another student outside the school’s purview.

“This law chills the very type of diversity, equity, and inclusion work that is absolutely necessary to ensure that each student is seen, heard, and connected, especially as New Hampshire becomes more diverse,” Mejia said in a statement.

The Catholic student and his family are suing the Exeter district, though without any help from New Hampshire’s ACLU. Bissonnette did not respond to a question on Monday as to why the American Civil Liberties Union would not defend a student punished for expressing his faith. 

Mejia is also a board member of Black Lives Matter Seacoast, a group that demands the removal of police officers from schools. 

Ammon says he does not think the lawsuit will succeed but does think New Hampshire taxpayers will still lose.

“We have to pay to defend the state in court against their lame allegations,” Ammon said.

NH Teachers Union Files Error-Filled Suit Against Anti-Discrimination Law

The New Hampshire branch of the American Federation of Teachers joined a handful of parents and teachers in a federal lawsuit Monday against “divisive concepts statute.” Only one problem: New Hampshire doesn’t have one.

The 50-page lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Concord — which often reads like a political campaign flyer — uses the phrase “divisive concepts” 103 times, even though the “divisive concepts” bill never passed the legislature. Instead, the state passed an anti-discrimination bill attempting to stop the continued use of Critical Race Theory-inspired curricula.

The lawsuit also quotes from legislation that was never passed, as well as screenshots of social media posts by private organizations like Moms for Liberty, which are not named in the suit and have no role in New Hampshire’s education system.

“It’s not shocking to me that there’s a lawsuit, but it does shock me that the lawsuit filed completely overlooks the actual legislation that was passed,” said Ryan Terrell, the only Black member of the state Board of Education.

The lawsuit refers to the anti-discrimination law — which bans government employees from teaching or training that immutable aspects like race or sex make people inherently inferior, superior, or racist — as the “divisive concepts statute.” The actual law does not contain the phrase and explicitly allows for the teaching of U.S. history on the issue of race.

“They must have filed this lawsuit in the wrong state,” said state Rep. Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, the House Majority Leader. “New Hampshire does not have a ‘divisive concepts’ statute.

Contacted Monday evening, AFT-NH President Deb Howes, refused to answer questions before hanging up.

“Not right now, I’m the car,” she said when NH Journal’s reporter identified himself.

A national AFT spokesperson referred questions about “divisive concepts” back to Howes, but noted that many in the New Hampshire media have labeled the law as a “divisive concept” law that bans certain subjects from being taught.

State Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, can’t understand why the American Federation of Teachers wants to overturn an anti-discrimination law.

“New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination law prohibits teaching New Hampshire students that they are ‘inherently superior or inferior to people of another age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin.'” Bradley said. “Clearly any instruction that teaches students they are inferior or superior due to these characteristics is discrimination and it’s terribly disappointing that this lawsuit has even been filed.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of teachers and parents against what they claim is a “culture war” in the classroom.

“The ‘culture wars’ have no place in New Hampshire’s classrooms. Our public school teachers and support staff are dedicated public servants who have stepped up and devoted themselves beyond measure during the pandemic to continue to teach our children,” the lawsuit states. “Yet, they are being politically targeted and threatened with public shaming and undeserved disciplinary proceedings (not to mention the cost of defending themselves) for doing their jobs in accordance with the curriculum formally adopted by the state.

“New Hampshire parents, too, are entitled to send their children to school, expecting a full and robust exchange of ideas in the classroom, uncorrupted by censorship and extremist partisanship,” according to the lawsuit.

Parents opposed to CRT-based instruction say school administrators and teachers brought the culture war into the classroom by teaching their children they are white supremacists or part of upholding white supremacy, regardless of their behavior or beliefs.

Terrell opposed the original bill as censorship and an overstep. The anti-discrimination law that passed is something he supports, since it reinforces the American principle of equality, without dictating what can be taught in the classroom. He said the NH AFT’s lawsuit presumes New Hampshire teachers can’t handle nuance.

“This is a slap in the face to our teachers,” he said.

The suit names New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire Commissioner on Human Rights chair Christian Kim and Attorney General John Fomella as defendants. 

Edelblut declined to comment, citing pending litigation.