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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.

Would Parental Rights Bill Force Schools to ‘Out’ Students?

State House Republicans are gearing up for another showdown with Gov. Chris Sununu, this time over HB 1431 the parental rights bill critics say would force teachers to out LGBTQ+ children and teens.

Sununu, backed by Attorney General John Formella’s office, has said he will veto the bill because of the potential harm it could do to children, and the potential liability it could create for schools. 

The bill has become a lightning rod, with Republican backers calling it an “anti-grooming” bill and Democrats saying it will put the lives of children in danger. The language in the law does appear to require schools to inform parents about their child’s sexual identity. Supporters say if a male student is using the female locker rooms or taking similar overt actions while at school, parents have a right to know.

The law was meant to solidify the legal right parents have in directing their children’s education. The rights enumerated in the bill include the right to see their child’s school records, obtain information about courses and after-school clubs, and the right to review tests and classroom materials, among other items. It’s one section deep down in the law’s text that is drawing concern. It reads that parents have:

“The right to be notified promptly when any school board, school district, school administrative unit, school administrator, or other school employee initiates, investigates, or finds the need for any action by school authorities relating to the student pursuant to school policies governing student conduct, truancy, dress code violations, sexual harassment, bullying, hazing, behavior management and intervention, substance use, suicide prevention, gender expression or identity, disability accommodation, and special meal prescription.”

Assistant Attorney General Sean Locke, with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Unit, told lawmakers last week this section of the law is problematic.

“This language could be construed to require school staff to effectively ‘out’ students–against the student’s wishes–to their parents if and when those students seek to avail themselves of protections pursuant to the school’s gender expression or identity policies,” Locke said in a statement. “This language targets students based upon their gender identity or expression for different treatment from other students, which denies those students the benefits of the particular policies designed to protect them from discrimination in schools.”

State Rep. Kimberly Rice, R-Hudson, who is also the speaker pro tempore of the House, said this section of the law would clearly result in school districts outing students to their families. She has called it a bad bill.

“I do believe it will force schools to out kids,” Rice said.

New Hampshire Democrats have tried to label the proposal a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a reference to an unrelated law passed in Florida. That law simply restricts sexual content from the K-3rd grade curriculum. The “Don’t Say Gay” claim has been repeatedly debunked and the proposal had the support of a majority of Florida voters, including 55 percent of Democrats.

This factually-questionable criticism from Granite State Democrats is making it difficult for some New Hampshire parents to decide if the parental rights bill is really a problem.

New Hampshire’s bill does not ban teaching sexuality, but even some of its backers concede it could be problematic. State Rep. Aidan Ankarberg (R-Rochester), one of the co-sponsors, was surprised by the opposition to the bill. He said the proposal ought to pass and then lawmakers can fix the outing concerns after the fact.

“I will also tell you that in regards to HB1431 it was never intended to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in any way. I personally never heard of any such opposition to the bill as it traveled through the legislative process and to take it a step further, next year I will be happy to sponsor an amendment to ensure that under the provisions of the parents bill of rights that no discrimination can be justified along the lines of sexual/ethnic orientation, etc.,” Ankerberg said. “We can find solutions to these issues in the next legislative term but the governor first should sign the bill into law and we can amend it from there.”

According to Ankarberg, the law is meant to give parents solid legal footing when dealing with the state, and with schools.

“Since its conception, HB1431 has been about codifying the relationship between the state and parents, while outlining the responsibilities of that relationship therein,” he said.

The controversial section of the bill — section (g) — does not automatically out LGBTQ+ students when they disclose their identities to teachers, he said. Any disclosure to parents happens if and when the school initiates an action involving the student, he said.

“Section (g) states that parental notification will only occur once action or investigation in violation of a policy is initiated. If a child is bullied, assaulted or discriminated etc. against by staff, other students, or members of the public on school grounds or other non- private property or spheres of influence and an incident is reported and investigated, parents should have a right to know what led to the violation and the details of the investigation as relates to their child. This reasonable bill is a huge step forward for parental rights and transparency and I look forward to its passage into law,” he said.

Another backer of the bill, Rep. Erica Layon, R-Derry, said the law keeps teachers from engaging in possible inappropriate behavior with students, and it puts the right of the parents first.

“​When I was a kid, we learned in school that if any grownup asks you to keep a secret from your parents you need to tell your parents right away,” Layon said. “Just as our teachers should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, our parents deserve the same respect. Unless there is abuse, the parent-child relationship must come before the teacher-student relationship.”

A conservative lawyer who spoke to NH Journal said there is no problem with the bill as-is since schools can still use a certain amount of discretion. This source said criticism of the bill boils down to assuming parents will be abusive if they found out about their child’s orientation. 

“Do we deem all parents abusers until proven innocent and withhold this kind of information on the off chance a parent might be abusive? Of course not: schools only have in loco parentis authority in the first place because it has been delegated to the school by the parents,” this source said. “(S)chools default to disclosing this information to parents, and withhold it only if we have some specific reason to suspect parents are abusive. The schools can do the same thing here. Nothing in the policy prevents them from adopting policies that withhold information from suspected abusers.”

Opponents of the bill, like Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, suggested that children should be able to explore their sexuality with a trusted teacher, without telling their parents.

“What I think we end up doing is we end up policing curiosity,” he said according to NH Bulletin. “The child who wants to explore things, think about things, maybe get together with other groups of children and talk and learn about how they are.”

Meg Tuttle, president of the NEA-NH, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said it is dangerous to let parents get between teachers and students when it comes to talking about sex.

 “HB 1431 disregards these well-tended relationships, substituting them with rules that make our schools and classrooms less safe for every student, risk their mental and physical health and well-being, and undermine the state’s obligation to provide an adequate and inclusive education for all students. Today, for the sake of a radical political agenda, the committee put the lives of children at risk,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle has previously said teachers in the classroom should be activists, especially when it comes to teaching subjects like sexual identity.

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 Teachers Union Blasts State Ed Board Rule Limiting Remote Learning

New Hampshire’s largest teachers union blasted the State Board of Education for voting to tightly limit the use of remote learning by Granite State public schools.

Under the rule changes finalized by the board Thursday, schools can only use remote learning for weather events such as snowstorms, and when parents request the online-learning option. Since the beginning of the pandemic, local school districts have locked down classrooms for months at a time, despite evidence showing that has a drastically negative impact on children. In some communities, parents organized protests in response.

On Thursday, the Board of Education made it clear whose side it is on.

“Parents have to have some say in the matter,” said board chairman Drew Cline.

Cline said the rule changes still leave school districts with the flexibility to adopt remote learning as needed in specific instances, but the state won’t be returning to months of at-home education for entire school districts. Cline said remote learning during the 2020-2021 school year was disastrous for public schools.

“We had more than 8,000 students leave the public school system in New Hampshire in 2020, and most of them didn’t come back,” Cline said. “One of the main reasons is [families] didn’t want remote instruction imposed upon them, they didn’t like that they had no options and no say.”

Megan Tuttle, president of the NEA-New Hampshire, the state’s largest teachers union, was quick to blast the decision. Tuttle accused the board and Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut of disregarding the health and safety of students and teachers.

“While educators, parents, and healthcare professionals are focused on keeping our children and families healthy and safe, Commissioner Edelblut and the State Board of Education are focused on penalizing school districts for making the difficult decision to temporarily switch to remote instruction during a communitywide outbreak,” Tuttle said in a statement.

Cline noted schools are free to close classrooms if they feel the need. But instead of simply moving classes to “Zoom school,” as some parents call it, schools will have to make up the days in classroom instruction later in the year.

Educators agree New Hampshire students lost ground across the board due to the effects of online learning.

In Manchester, Superintendent Jonathan Goldhardt told the city’s board of education this week that thousands of his students are now getting failing grades.

“The number of students getting at least one F grade went up dramatically during the mostly remote and hybrid 2020-2021 school year,” Goldhardt told board members, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Test results tell the same story.

Proficiency for ELA at the third-grade level was 44 percent in 2021, compared to 55 percent in 2018 and 52 percent in 2019. Math proficiency at the third-grade level was 45 percent in 2021, compared to 55 percent in both 2017 and 2018, and 57 percent in 2019. 

Eighth-grade proficiency for ELA was 49 percent in 2021, compared to 62 percent in 2016, 58 percent in both 2017 and 2018, and 53 percent in 2019. Proficiency for math at the eighth-grade level was 33 percent in 2021, compared to 47 percent in 2016, 46 percent in 2017, 47 percent in 2018, and 45 percent in 2019. 

Cline said the board listened to unions and others opposed to the rule changes, but those in opposition never presented an alternative plan. Ultimately, the changes were about listening to parents and keeping students in schools, he said.

“We’re moving forward with this rule to give parents real-time buy-in and opt-in,” Cline said. “We want to make sure public schools are listening to the parents because we don’t want a repeat of 2020 where we lose another 8,000 kids.”

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.

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.”