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Speaker Asks AG to Investigate Vogt Over Florida Plane Ticket Offer

Maybe he should have stayed in Florida.

House Speaker Sherman Packard is calling on New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella to investigate the possible attempted bribery of Democratic state Rep. Robin Vogt (D-Portsmouth) by left-wing activist groups.

Packard (R-Londonderry) sent Formella a letter Friday asking for an investigation into Vogt, making the case that either the progressive activists who offered Vogt a free plane ticket violated state bribery laws or Vogt did by failing to report it to authorities.

“The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to not only bring this matter to your attention for review of a potential violation of the law but also to ensure that it has been properly reported to law enforcement as required by the statute,” Packard wrote.

Formella’s spokesman, Michael Garrity, told NH Journal that the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is looking into Packard’s allegations.

“At this time, the New Hampshire Department of Justice is reviewing a referral from the House Speaker’s office and will respond as appropriate in due course,” Garrity said.

The offer was made as a vote on the GOP’s Parents Bill of Rights approached. Vogt was vacationing in Florida on a long-planned trip. With the House nearly evenly split along partisan lines, progressive opponents of parents’ rights feared the bill could pass by as little as one vote. Left-wing activist Linds Jakows told Vogt he had no excuse to miss the session, as money was available to fly him back to New Hampshire.

“No. It is a luxury to actively choose to be in Florida for nearly a week now when there are funds to fly you to New Hampshire and back,” Jakows wrote to Vogt in a now-deleted tweet.

A free plane ticket would have been a clear violation of state law regarding gifts to legislators. The question before the attorney general is whether the offer of an illegal gift is itself against the law.

Vogt continues to reap the whirlwind from his decision to stay in Florida rather than return to Concord. Because he wouldn’t climb on a plane, his progressive allies are throwing him under the bus.

The leftist group New Hampshire Youth Movement (NHYM) revoked its endorsement of Vogt.

“This decision was not made lightly or out of spite,” NHYM’s Erika Perez wrote in a letter to House members. “NH Youth Movement is committed to having our base of young people be a huge part of decision-making, and after Rep. Vogt failed to show up to one of the most important floor votes of the year due to a vacation, our base was asking what we planned on doing to hold him accountable.”

Perez is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Manchester and is a registered lobbyist. According to a source, Perez has links to Linds Jakows, head of 603 Equity. It was Jakows who took to Twitter in the days before the Parents Bill of Rights vote to tell Vogt that there were “funds available” to cover his travel costs. After being questioned about the legality of those funds, Jakows claimed that “community members” were crowd-funding money for Vogt’s trip.

It was unclear who was raising money for Vogt, but in announcing its decision to revoke the endorsement, NHYM acknowledged on Twitter that it had taken part in communications to bring Vogt back to New Hampshire.

“Robin, despite all of our best direct efforts, did not show up in a way that NHYM can uphold as allyship. Because of that, we are revoking his endorsement, effective immediately,” the organization’s Twitter account stated.

New Hampshire Youth Movement is a registered 501 (c) 4 non-profit. 

Ultimately, Vogt stayed on vacation, and the Parents Bill of Rights (SB 272) was “indefinitely postponed” by a vote of 195-190, meaning the topic is dead under House rules for the rest of the current two-year legislative session.

Neither Jakows, Perez, nor Vogt responded to requests for comment. 

Packard’s letter cites RSA 640:2, Bribery in Official and Political Matters, which states it is a class B felony if a person “promises, offers, or gives any pecuniary benefit to another with the purpose of influencing the other’s action, decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, nomination, or other exercise of discretion as a public servant.”

Packard’s letter also noted it is a potential felony for the public servant not to report the attempted bribe; “Being a public servant, party official, candidate for electoral office, or voter, he solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any pecuniary benefit from another knowing or believing the other’s purpose to be as described in subparagraph I(a), or fails to report to a law enforcement officer that he has been offered or promised a pecuniary benefit in violation of subparagraph I(a).”

Manchester Public Schools: Parents Who Don’t Like Secrecy Policy Can Take Their Kids and Leave

Call it the “Don’t Let the Door Hit You” Defense.

During oral arguments in a lawsuit over its policy of keeping parents in the dark about their children’s behavior, the Manchester School District’s attorney told the state Supreme Court that parents shouldn’t be able to challenge the district’s policy. Instead, they should pull their kids out of public school and go somewhere else.

“If the parents want to make a different choice, they can homeschool, or they can send their child to a private school; those are options available to them,” said attorney Meghan Glynn.

The district is being sued over its policy of keeping students’ behavior related to sex and gender secret from their parents.

Richard Lehmann, the attorney for the Manchester mother going by Jane Doe, who filed the lawsuit, said parents have the right to know if their children are being socially transitioned in schools with the aid of school staff.

Manchester School District lawyer Meghan Glynn told Supreme Court justices that parents who don’t like the district’s policies can send their kids to private school.

“The real issue is not a school reporting on what a student is doing in school, but for the school to report what the school itself is doing in school,” Lehmann said.

Lehmann rejected the argument that Doe’s lawsuit was an attempt to force the district to out LGBT students to their parents. He argued that it is about a government entity usurping parental powers and making decisions in place of a parent.

“This is the government substituting its own judgment over a parent’s judgment when it comes to gender identity,” Lehmann said. 

Jane Doe stated in her original complaint that she found out in the fall of 2021 that her child was using a different pronoun and gender identity at school. The school’s name was withheld in court documents to protect the child’s identity.

The mother spoke with school staff, including the student’s guidance counselor. According to the lawsuit, the mother made it clear she wanted her child to be called by the name and pronouns the child had at birth while in school.

Even though the staff she spoke to initially agreed, the mother received an email from the school principal stating that the mother’s instructions were being overridden due to the district’s policy. According to the lawsuit, the principal stated that the district’s policy requires school staff to keep such matters secret from parents if the child so chooses. Even if staffers agree to use the child’s true gender identity when speaking with the mother, they would be obligated to not tell the mother if the child wished to be identified as something else.

The policy states teachers and staff are not to tell anyone about a child’s gender identity without the express consent of the child. School employees are also directed to use the child’s biological pronouns and given name when talking about the child to people who do not know about the nonconforming gender identity.

Last September, Hillsborough Superior Court Judge Amy Messer ruled in favor of the school district, declaring parents ultimately do not have the right to direct how their children are to be educated in public schools.

“(T)he right to make decisions about the care, custody, and control of one’s child is not absolute,” Messer wrote.

Because Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi has recused herself from the case without giving a reason, the court may issue a 2-2 tie decision. If they do, Messer’s original ruling will stand.

On Friday, Glynn maintained the Manchester school staff, and officials did not lie to Doe about her child’s gender identity. They simply followed policy.

“If the issue, in this case, is truly that the district has a constitutional duty to report what the school is doing, the school has met that burden,” Glynn said.

Glynn said that parents have the right to have their voice heard when the district crafts policies, and they have the right to vote out school board representatives who pursue policies they do not support. A comment from Justice James Bassett seemingly rebuked this line of reasoning.

“Constitutional rights are not up for a vote,” Bassett said.  

In fact, parents’ rights are coming up for a vote in the New Hampshire House. Last week, the House Education Committee cast a 10-10 party-line vote on SB272, the Parents Bill of Rights. The full Hous is expected to vote on the legislation, which is supported by Gov. Chris Sununu, later this month.

Glynn cautioned the justices that if they decide in favor of Doe and parents’ rights in this case, more lawsuits will likely come.

“The next case up is going to be the case of a student,” she said.

Kindergarten Sex Ed Class Up for Review in Hanover

Hanover school board chairman Ben Keeney confirms that his district is using the curriculum that involves teachers encouraging five-year-olds to draw their own naked bodies. But, he assured NHJournal, no parents are complaining.

“I’ve not heard from any parents about the situation directly,” Keeney said.

Care for Kids is taught at the Bernice Ray Elementary School through a partnership with WISE and has been part of Hanover’s curriculum for over a dozen years, Keeney said. Keeney said the goal of the program is to prevent abuse.

“It’s a sexual violence prevention tool,” he said.

WISE, a Lebanon-based non-profit to support victims of domestic and sexual abuse, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The Care for Kids program presented as an anti-abuse teaching tool, sparked an uproar when an Upper Valley parent, Chris Rivet, read from the graphic teaching aid during testimony at the State House. Rivet said he and his wife were never told about the content before it was offered. State law dictates parents be given notice before any sex education being offered in schools.

Care for Kids has teachers instruct children to draw themselves naked and encourages teachers to push children who are uncomfortable to draw penises, nipples, and other body parts.

Rivet, a parent and a teacher, said the program is totally inappropriate for the age group. He read from the curriculum on the floor of the New Hampshire House during a hearing on the GOP-backed Parents Bill of Rights.

The bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate, Republican Sharon Carson, said the bill is in response to parents who learned for the first time what their children were being taught in schools while overseeing classwork during the COVID school closures. Those parents were shocked, Carson said.

Another reason for the bill is found in the lawsuit brought by a Manchester mother who was told by school employees they could not tell her the truth about her child’s gender identity.

“Parents shouldn’t have to file lawsuits to find out about their children,” Carson said.

The Care for Kids program, which comes from the organization Prevent Child Abuse VT, is taught throughout Vermont and in some Upper Valley communities in New Hampshire along the Connecticut River under a Healthy Relationships course.

Healthy Relationships is also taught in New Hampshire schools throughout the Monadnock region through the Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention in Keene without mention of the kindergarten naked drawing course. Representatives with MCVP Healthy Relationships program were unavailable for comment.

However, Keeney said the program is getting a review from the school board. That review is part of the regular curriculum review the board conducts and is not in response to any complaints.

“The curriculum as a whole is being looked at by the board as an ongoing, constant improvement project,” Keeney said.