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Edelblut Critics Silent After Teacher Abortion Report

Accused by media outlets of interfering in classrooms and spreading misinformation, New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s public records release is silencing critics.

For now.

The cache of documents Edelblut recently made public includes the investigative report on a New Hampshire public school teacher who brought a student to an abortion clinic during school hours — and without notifying the girl’s family. The veracity of the abortion incident was questioned in The Boston Globe soon after Edelblut first made mention of it in an April op-ed

“Was that accusation found to be true? He did not say,” the Globe’s Steven Porter wrote. “Two days after Edelblut’s op-ed was published on the department’s website, officials still have not provided any additional information to substantiate the abortion-related claim. It’s not clear when or where that allegation may have been raised, who investigated it, and whether it was deemed credible.”

The documents Edelblut released in May make clear the abortion incident did, in fact, happen, and was reported to the Department of Education. On Monday, the DOE released another document, the letter informing the teacher that a formal, departmental investigation had been opened.

The teacher was subsequently fired by the school district.

The letter released Monday states the teacher was to be investigated for a code of conduct violation of alleged “failure to properly supervise and abide by ethical standards regarding student boundary protocols.” The letter does not make mention of any alleged criminal conduct, such as violating the parental notification law for minors seeking an abortion.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is declining to comment on the matter, and referring all questions to Edelblut’s office.

The name of the teacher, the student, and the school district are all redacted in the public documents. Also unknown is the age of the student involved.

Edelblut’s office is declining any comment on the matter.

Reached Monday, Porter would not answer directly if he was planning to write a follow up to his initial piece questioning whether Edelblut’s abortion story actually happened.

The current dust up between Edelblut and the media started in April when NHPR published a story accusing the commissioner of using his office to wage a culture war. 

“Edelblut has leveraged his oversight powers to elevate grievances against the public education system and, at times, individual educators,” the leftwing outlet claimed.

Edelblut’s op-ed, the one questioned by Porter, was a defense of his work as commissioner. In it, he cited examples of a student being called a “white supremacist” for having a Trump flag, an art teacher using class time to promote Black Lives Matter, and a school gender survey that tells students teachers will keep their gender preferences secret from parents.

“When I assumed this role in 2017, I committed to being 100 percent focused on the children. Thank God someone is looking out for the children,” Edelblut wrote.

All of these incidents, like the abortion incident, are detailed in the May public release.

Edelblut, a conservative Christian who homeschooled his children, has been a lightning rod for controversy since starting as commissioner. Teachers unions have been quick to accuse him of interfering in the classroom, even taking him to court over the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Last month, a federal judge ruled the law was too vague to pass constitutional muster, and its implementation too reliant on Edelblut’s opinions. The New Hampshire chapter of the American Teacher’s Federal and the National Educators Association of New Hampshire were both plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

However, the same unions have been scarce since the release of the report on the abortion incident and other complaints. The fired teacher had to be represented by one of the two unions operating in the state, but neither Deb Howes, AFT-NH president, nor Megan Tuttle, NEA-NH president, responded to requests for comment.

ANALYSIS: AG Schools Warmington Over Clueless PragerU Complaint

Don’t worry, Ronald McDonald: “Hamburger University” is safe from Cinde Warmington — for now.

It’s no surprise that Executive Councilor Warmington, a progressive Democrat seeking her party’s nomination for governor, isn’t a fan of PragerU. Founded by conservative radio talk host Dennis Prager, PragerU generates short, educational videos on a variety of topics — some overtly political, others basic life skills.

The PragerU content under consideration by the state Board of Education consists of several short videos and coursework covering lessons on basic personal finances, from how paychecks work, how checking and savings accounts work, how to get a loan, and how to invest for retirement. 

What PragerU doesn’t do — and has never claimed to do — is hand out college diplomas. There is literally a message on its website that reads, “No, PragerU is not an accredited university, nor do we claim to be. We do not offer degrees. However, we are the most accessible and influential online resource for explaining the concepts that have made America great.”

But that didn’t stop Warmington from demanding an Attorney General investigation into PragerU, claiming it is attempting to defraud people fooled by the “U.” You know, like those tricky people who run ESPNU (your cable TV home for college sports!).

And, she claimed, she’d found a New Hampshire law the education nonprofit was violating by calling itself PragerU.

Unfortunately for Warmington, the law she cited applies to businesses incorporated in New Hampshire (PragerU is not) that are using terms like “college” or “university” in ways “tending to designate that it is an institution of higher learning” (it’s not), or somehow “invoke the consumer protection rationale” (as the AG put it) of the statute.

By the way, Warmington is a lawyer. Maybe she’s angry because she got hoodwinked by the Jethro Bodine School for Lawyerin’?

As the Attorney General’s office said in a statement Monday: “After reviewing the statute, the AGO does not read RSA 292:8-g to require nondomestic entities that merely have a presence in New Hampshire through the existence of a website to incorporate under the provisions of RSA 292:8.”

In other words, Councilor Warmington literally didn’t know what she was talking about when she demanded the investigation.

Which, by the way, is great news for College Motors and University Donuts — not to mention the Electoral College which, coincidentally, many progressives would like to shut down as well.

There is a strong case to be made that pursuing content from PragerU is a political miscalculation by Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut and the state Board of Education. Given the current state of the media, it’s hardly a surprise that leftwing outlets were willing to pile on with Warmington’s uninformed complaints, taking them seriously. PragerU is an openly conservative content provider. In the current political climate “conservative” and “controversial” are synonyms, regardless of the facts.

Is it true that the same people attacking PragerU’s completely non-political lessons on personal finance also embrace the blatant racism of Ibram X. Kendi for public school classrooms? Yes. Is it true that media outlets who knew — or should have known — this was a ridiculous ploy by Warmington played along and pretended it was legit? Of course they did.

But those are the political realities of the moment.

Hilariously, Warmington stuck with her bogus claims in response to the AG’s dismissal of her complaint.

“I’m disappointed with the Attorney General’s failure to protect the public from Prager University’s [sic] clearly misleading name,” Warmington said, intentionally misleading voters by using a fake name for “PragerU.”

Warmington is a smart enough political operative to seize an issue like this, real or imagined, and use it for political gain. But why did she make ridiculous, fact-free claims about fraud and breaking the law? Isn’t “I oppose all content to the right of MSNBC” enough?

Did Warmington, an attorney, simply not understand the law she was citing? Or did she understand but, in the cause of political opportunism, simply not care? Either way, Granite Staters have learned something about what kind of governor Warmington would be.

And they didn’t need a college degree to figure it out.

State Ed Board Delays Vote on PragerU Content, But Approval Appears Likely

In a battle between educational content and political rhetoric, it appears content may have won the day at the State Board of Education Thursday.

At issue is a video course on financial literacy offered by PragerU that the board is considering adding to the curriculum of the state’s Learn Everywhere program. Board chairman Drew Cline said the content “has a lot of value” and is suitable for the flexible, self-directed education that is part of the non-traditional Learn Everywhere model.

Critics, like Deb Howes, president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, had not watched the videos and were not familiar enough with the content to discuss it. Instead, they objected to the source of the content — PragerU, a politically-conservative nonprofit founded by media personality Dennis Prager.

Asked by Cline if the 15-video course met the appropriate educational standards, Howes, the head of the second largest teachers union in the state, declined to answer and appeared not to have viewed any of the content.

“I cannot speak to whether it goes into depth enough; I am not a financial literacy teacher,” Howes said.

State Rep. David Luneau (D-Hopkinton) bashed the board’s handling of the application and called PragerU a “racist propaganda mill.”

“I find it outrageous and unacceptable that this board would take a controversial subject and slip it into a meeting on Aug. 10 when hopefully nobody’s watching,” Luneau said.

However, when asked about the specific content, Luneau also appeared to be unfamiliar with it and pointedly refused to say if he watched any of the videos under consideration about the board.

Some critics, however, had taken the time to review the materials. Mark MacLean, executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, watched all 15 videos in the “Cash Course” series and said there is plenty of good material in the class.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the videos I watched,” MacLean said.

But MacLean did express concerns about the depth of the content and whether or not it is sufficient to be an accredited high school class. PragerU’s proposal sought to have students who took the class earn a half credit.

“The content is good; I just don’t think as a standalone it’s enough to provide students with a comprehensive financial literacy unit,” MacLean said.

But elected Democrats and progressive activists who attacked the board’s consideration of the content weren’t interested in the course but rather the source. They denounced PragerU and expressed concerns that curious students might become intrigued and begin exploring other content from the conservative nonprofit.

“Students and parents who view the first video in PragerU’s financial literacy course are one mouse-click away from a ‘Parent Action Guide’ that urges scrutiny of any public official who parents suspect is involved in topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the left-leaning Boston Globe warned.

Both Democrats running for governor in 2024, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, have announced their opposition.

Via social media, Warmington urged the board to reject what she called “radical & unaccredited PragerU into New Hampshire schools,” though she has also not indicated what part of the proposed course is objectionable.

And House Democratic Caucus Leader Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) claimed PragerU has content “that suggests slavery was ‘no big deal,’” and “peddle anti-LGBTQ+ hate.” Despite repeated requests, Wilhelm declined to provide any examples to bolster his claims.

Ultimately, it appeared the solution may be technology, not politics.

Brandon Ewing, with PragerU, told the board Thursday that the organization planned to create a separate website for the New Hampshire Cash Course class, one that was not linked to the wider PragerU site. It was a detail the board had not been made aware of.

“We’re working through the format details on the technical end,” Ewing said.

Cline said removing the Cash Course class from the PragerU main website would allow families to view it without concerns over the rest of PragerU’s content.

“We heard a lot of testimony that the content is strong, but a lot of concerns about the context. Having it as a standalone entity could change the whole conversation,” Cline said. Cline also asked Ewing to show the board more of the materials that will be used to access student progress in the course.

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to table the application until next month, when it can see the proposed website and review additional materials.

“This is good financial literacy content, and we need to make sure that all of our young people have that skill going forward in life,” said Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut told WMUR after the board meeting. “I think that it got overly politicized, and I think there was some interest in doing that, and I’m disappointed that this is where we ended up.”

Sununu Wants State Agencies to Promote More Time Outdoors, Less Time on Screens, for NH Kids

Gov. Chris Sununu is telling kids to put down their phones and go touch grass.

Sununu issued an executive order Wednesday aimed at getting New Hampshire children off social media and into the outdoors. At the same time, the state is investigating the harm apps like TikTok and Instagram are doing to children.

Sununu’s order comes following extensive meetings with Attorney General John Formella about the dangers posed by sites like TikTok and Instagram.

“New Hampshire’s children are the future of our state and our nation, and we are making every effort to ensure necessary changes are made to prevent harm by these platforms. New Hampshire will look at all necessary options to protect our children – including spending more time off screens and outdoors.”

The state’s ongoing investigation into the numerous harms to children posed by social media platforms started in November 2021. The new executive order is based on some of those findings. Formella said social media is disastrous for youth mental health and is creating a crisis among children and teens.

“Extensive social media use has been tied to profound risks of harm in youth. Indeed, there has been an increased focus on the correlation between the development of serious mental health disorders by minors and time spent on social media. My office is actively considering how it can best protect New Hampshire’s youth from the harm these platforms cause and promote,” Formella said. “Eliminating the harmful effects of social media on New Hampshire’s youth and holding social media platforms accountable for their actions is a top priority for me.”

Sununu also wants to use the classroom to fight harmful social media habits. His order gives the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services 90 days to develop guidelines for a social media curriculum to be submitted to the State Board of Education. This curriculum for all K-12 health classes will teach the potentially negative impacts of social media use.

Sununu’s order came one day before the House is expected to vote on a Democrat-backed bill to give kids more access to social media in classrooms. Under SB213, schools will use social media accounts for instruction as long as it is connected to a particular study area. The bill also requires that parents provide written permission for that social media use.

Sununu’s office did not respond to NH Journal when asked about SB213.

Under Sununu’s plan, state agencies will also promote a new GoPlayNH Initiative to encourage kids and families to spend more time off their screens and outdoors. The initiative will highlight the various recreation opportunities available across the Granite State.

“Teaching our children how to engage with society in a healthy, fulfilling way is a core component to providing a holistic education that prepares the next generation for success in every way,” said Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut. “I am thankful that Governor Sununu is taking action to address the societal impact of social media and look forward to hearing directly from parents and students so that we may work side by side to support the needs of the community.”

More details on the rollout of the GoPlayNH Initiative are expected in the coming weeks.

This isn’t Sununu’s first foray into the social media fight. Last December, he banned the Chinese-owned Tik Tok app from state-issued electronic devices. TikTok gathers data from users’ phones that is unrelated to using the app, and the company makes that data available upon request to the Chinese Communist Party, according to multiple media accounts.

And Formella joined 46 other state attorneys general in March, asking a Tennessee judge to order the company to open up its internal communications for review.