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Will State’s New ‘Anti-Racism’ Training Conflict With Anti-Discrimination Law?

New Hampshire will start offering state employees “anti-racism” training later this month, but the content of that training is not yet available.

And nobody wants to talk about it, either. Or whether the content based on ‘anti-racism’ theory will conflict with the state’s new anti-discrimination law.

“All executive branch employees are required to take Department of Administrative Services’ (DAS) ‘Respect and Civility in the Workplace’ training, which includes diversity training,” Gail Crowdes, the DAS administrator of programs and compliance, told NHJournal. “DAS also offers an optional course titled ‘Diversity & Inclusion: Awareness to Action.’ This course will be available in mid-April 2022.”

The diversity course will be taught by Dr. Kasha Gordon, owner of Alabama-based Front Runner Leadership Training. Gordon signed a two-year contract with the state in February to provide leadership training and coaching to state employees. She is paid between $900 and $1,200 per class for the online courses.

Gordon declined to speak about her offerings when contacted.

A brief, two-page “course syllabus” is available, listing study materials and overall goals, one of which is, “Develop a strategy to improve your anti-racist practices, policies and procedures, and how to take immediate action to correct them.”

“Anti-racism” is a political ideology popularized by the author Ibram X. Kendi based on the premise that all White people are racists.

The new training is in response to an incident at the Concord office of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Police were called by employees of DHHS and the Department of Environmental Services in response to what they characterized as unruly behavior by Barry and Magalie Lawrence.

According to reporting by the Concord Monitor, the Lawrences came to the DHHS office to correct a problem with Magalie’s COVID-19 vaccine record. “The conversation became heated, no doubt,” Barry said. “They seemed quite dismissive.” The police were called and a state trooper responded. No arrests were made.

“This was one last straw just because of the nature of it,” Magalie Lawrence said. “It’s a daily occurrence with the little insults, the microaggressions. It’s something that happens every day.”

In response, the activist group Change for Concord wrote a letter to the state agencies involved criticizing their handling of the incident and demanding action. The letter — signed by Clifton West of Black Lives Matter Seacoast and Siobhan Senier, Chair of UNH Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, among others — argues the act of calling the police puts the lives of Black people in danger.

“The departments [DHHS] admitted that no existing policy governs when employees may call the police to intervene with interactions involving the public; rather, they simply defer to the personal judgment of each employee,” they wrote. “Such a policy allows and ensures that race will remain unchecked as a reason that employees may call the police on members of the public. In failing to properly respond to this incident, the state has confirmed that racial bias within its system is not only conscious but accepted and normalized.”

Until that policy changes, they wrote, “we have significant concerns that state offices and facilities are unsafe for people of color.”

It appears they have gotten action.

DHHS and DES spokesmen say state employees will be undergoing mandatory diversity training, arranged by the New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services, according to DES spokesperson Jim Martin and DHHS’s Jake Leon. The anti-racism “Diversity and Inclusion” training, however, will be optional.

Neither Gordon nor Crowdes would answer whether the class was in compliance with the state’s new anti-discrimination law.

That law prohibits teaching that any group is inferior or superior to any other group based on race, ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation. The law was enacted as a reaction to concerns about critical race theory concepts being taught in schools and to teachers.

Last year, some Manchester School District employees were forced to take a “white privilege” training class. Part of the training included a webinar entitled “What Is White Privilege, Really?” in which the instructor told participants the goal of the training was to “expand our definition of white privilege as both personal and systemic, and to understand the function of whiteness as a pillar of white supremacy and power.”

The mandate was dropped after NHJournal reported on the story.

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.”

Moms for Liberty ‘Bounty’ Offer Adds to CRT Tensions

The New Hampshire branch of Moms For Liberty says it hasn’t paid out any bounties on teachers violating the state’s new anti-discrimination law — yet.

But the group’s leader Rachel Goldsmith hopes to soon.

“We’ve received multiple reports, but won’t be administrating the incentive until we’ve allowed the state to perform due diligence on each report,” Goldsmith said. 

Due diligence is precisely what is behind the new website, set up by the state Department of Education and Commission on Human Rights, for parents to report concerns they have about teachers or administrators discriminating against their children. The new state law prohibits public employees from teaching or training that “an individual, by virtue of his or her age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

The law’s goal is to protect students and government employees from the race-based ideology inspired by Critical Race Theory that has made its way into some New Hampshire schools. Manchester, Litchfield, and Laconia have all been caught with content promoting the view that all White people are advancing “white supremacy” and benefit from “white privilege.”

New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut says violations will ultimately be adjudicated by the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, adding the website is designed to make sure everyone’s rights are respected.

“The benefit of setting out that process is to protect the due process rights of our educators and our students,” Edleblut said in the Jack Heath radio show.

But the Hillsborough Moms For Liberty isn’t waiting for adjudication. It announced a $500 bounty last week for the first person to report an instance of a teacher violating the state’s new anti-discrimination law.

Goldsmith said if public schools had been doing the job in the first place, none of this would be necessary.

“We are parents tired of public school systems failing our children. This incentive will encourage teachers, parents, and students to find and replace bad curriculum. We just want the school boards and teachers unions to stop pushing alphabet soup (CRT/DEI/SEL) and start teaching kids to read. Manchester SD is graduating only 20 percent of kids reading at grade level,” Goldsmith said.

Edelblut did not respond to NH Journal’s question about whether he supports the bounties, but Edelblut said on the radio interview the website and the process of bringing cases to the Human Rights Commission are ways to eliminate mob action. 

“This way we don’t leave it up to social media,” he said.

Goldsmith said the bounties in no way impede the state process.

“No aspect of this compromises that due process,” Goldsmith said. “We look forward to working with the NH Department of Education and Commissioner Edelblut.”

None of the complaints will be handled by Edelblut or the Department of Education.

Gov. Chris Sununu is squarely against the bounty program. Spokesman Ben Vihstadt said, “The governor condemns the tweet referencing ‘bounties’ and any sort of financial incentive is wholly inappropriate and has no place.”

The heads of New Hampshire’s two teachers unions blasted Edelblut over the website, accusing it of 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 N.H. parents will find repulsive,” AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes said.

Meg Tuttle, president of the NEA-NH, called for Sununu to denounce Edelblut over the website.

“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.

Edelblut is likely to announce his decision on whether he’s running for U.S. Senate against Democrat Maggie Hassan in the coming weeks. Edelblut has staked out a pro-parent profile in his time as commissioner. He shepherded the state’s Education Freedom Account school choice program, and he expanded learning opportunities outside the classroom. He said parental power in education will be a key part of New Hampshire’s political debate in the coming months.

“Parents should have the primary role in the education of their children. That’s an important part of any election,” he said. “We need to stay involved and make sure parents have a voice.”

State Sen. Chuck Morse, another Republican who might look at the Senate race, came out strongly in favor of parents in a recent Union Leader editorial.

“Parents have the power to bring about political change. Politicians ignore them at their peril,” Morse wrote. “In New Hampshire, Republicans at the Statehouse have been listening to parents and empowering them to be more involved in their children’s education.”

Morse was not available on Wednesday to talk bounties.

The pro-parent message already proved a winner in the Virginia gubernatorial race as pro-school choice Republican Glenn Younking beat the favored Democrat Terry McAullife after McAullife committed a gaffe on the camping trial by saying, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

GOP Targets Hassan’s CRT Vote

As New Hampshire Democrats continue to deny that Critical Race Theory curriculum has made its way into Granite State classrooms, Republicans are targeting Sen. Maggie Hassan’s vote against banning funding of the radical, race-based content in classrooms.

“Critical Race Theory, and its destructive elements seeping into our public education system, has become a hot issue in school boards and statewide races across the country,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a press release Thursday.

“In August of 2021, Democrats had the chance to join Republicans and vote for an amendment that would ‘prevent federal funds from being used to promote Critical Race Theory in prekindergarten, elementary, and secondary schools, and they all voted against it.”

The vote occurred during the so-called “vote-a-rama” as part of the budget reconciliation process allowing Democrats to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending plan without any negotiations across the aisle or any votes from the GOP.

New Hampshire Sens. Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen joined their fellow Democrats in voting down the CRT ban.

“Liberals have tried their best to say the controversy is fake, made up, a conspiracy theory, contrary to reality,” the NRSC said.

That’s certainly been the case in New Hampshire, where progressive state Rep. David Meuse (D-Portsmouth) attacked NHJournal for a news report on CRT-based content in classrooms from Manchester to Laconia to Litchfield.

“The partisan hackery of  @NewHampJournal needs to be called out,” Meuse tweeted. “It’s a GOP propaganda machine—not a legitimate news source. What should be called out is veiled racism of those who think teaching kids about racism has no place in NH schools.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley retweeted the attack.

(The news article in question, which includes links to CRT-based classroom materials and actual images of handouts for elementary school students, can be found here.)

The use of CRT-based content is not in dispute among serious education scholars or mainstream media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

On Thursday, the Times’ Ross Douthat called out Democrats’ hollow claim that Critical Race Theory as an academic premise isn’t being taught in k-12 schools. “Yes, fourth graders in the Commonwealth of Virginia are presumably not being assigned the academic works of Derrick Bell,” he conceded.

But he argues this is no defense of the race-based, anti-White propaganda from CRT proponents like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi that has become common in classrooms.

For example, “the racial-equity reading list sent around in 2019 by one state educational superintendent which recommended both DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility’ and an academic treatise titled ‘Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education.’

‘That superintendent was responsible for Virginia’s public schools,” Douthat noted.

A national Rasmussen survey of 1,000 American adults found  57 percent said parents should be concerned about Critical Race Theory in classrooms, and 76 percent said they’re concerned that public schools may be promoting controversial beliefs and attitudes.

Just 27 percent called these concerns “phony” issues.

Hassan’s vote against a ban on funding CRT will almost certainly be used by her GOP opponent in 2022. If that opponent is Gov. Chris Sununu, he’ll be able to point to the anti-CRT language in the state budget.

Based on the reaction of Democrats and their allies in the media, it appears they’re afraid it will work.