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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.

Federal Judge Tosses NH’s Anti-Discrimination Law as Too Vague

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that New Hampshire’s law barring the teaching of discriminatory content in schools is too vague and, therefore, violates the constitutional rights of educators. 

“The Amendments are viewpoint-based restrictions on speech that do not provide either fair warning to educators of what they prohibit or sufficient standards for law enforcement to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement,” wrote United States District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro. The judge based his ruling on the 14th Amendment protection against vague laws, and declared New Hampshire’s legislature passed a law that was nearly “unintelligible.”

The law’s supporters disagree.

Under the law tossed out by Judge Barbadoro:

  • You can’t “teach, advocate, instruct, or train” people that one group is inherently superior or inferior to another.
  • You can’t teach that people are inherently racist, sexist, etc., based on the group they’re in.
  • You can’t teach that people should be discriminated against based on their group.
  • You can’t teach people not to even try to treat people in other groups equally (the “race shouldn’t matter/colorblind” approach)

As a result, school districts like Manchester, Litchfield and Laconia could no longer use Critical Race Theory-based curriculum in their classrooms. Striking down the law will allow that content to return.

Barbadoro said the attempt to prevent teachers from telling students they are racist, sexist, etc. crossed the line into viewpoint discrimination.

“The most obvious vagueness problem is presented by the fourth concept, which prohibits teaching that individuals of one group ‘cannot and should not attempt to treat others without regard to’ their membership in another group. As other courts have observed, this language is ‘bordering on unintelligible’ because it employs the dreaded triple negative form,” Barbadoro wrote.

The judge argued the law created an untenable mix of subjective instructions and severe punishment under the law.

“Potential disciplinary sanctions include reprimand, suspension, and revocation of the educator’s certification,” Barbadoro wrote. “In other words, an educator who is found to have taught or advocated a banned concept may lose not only his or her job, but also the ability to teach anywhere in the state.”

New Hampshire Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s office declined to comment.

Nixon Peabody attorney Morgan Nighan, who represented the plaintiffs, said a law so unclear that it cannot be followed is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment.

“No ordinary person can understand what is banned,” Nighan said. “Laws like this have been routinely struck down across the country.”

Teachers could not speak about affirmative action legal cases, Israel’s war against Hamas, or any potentially hot button current events issue for fear of breaking the law, Nighan claimed. That meant teachers avoided large sections of history or current events out of fear that could lose their licenses without knowing why.

“For example, teachers may attempt to stimulate discussion by asking students pointed questions or encourage debate by presenting students with ideas contrary to their own. When such techniques are used to explore a banned concept, it is impossible to know whether a banned concept has been impermissibly taught,” Barbadoro wrote.

Supporters of the law dismiss that claim, saying the line between teaching that racism exists and actually advocating racism is easy to see.

Attempts by Edeblut to clarify the law backfired, according to Barbadoro’s ruling. Edelblut tried to explain his views in a June 2021 newspaper oped, but that only added to the confusion and fear, Barbadoro said.

“The threat of arbitrary enforcement based on Edelblut’s personal views has impacted teachers even in the absence of a formal complaint,” Barbadoro wrote.

One incident noted in Barbadoro’s ruling involved Keene Middle School scrapping a plan to teach Ibrahim X. Kendi’s “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and  You” after the district bought 250 copies of the books. According to the ruling, Edelblut’s column was why Keene abandoned Kendi’s book.

According to Kendi, “There’s no such thing as a ‘not racist’ or ‘race neutral’ policy,” and any person who doesn’t embrace what he calls “antiracism” — overtly treating white people differently from people of color — is engaged in racism. Some parents objected to the notion that their children would be taught that their skin color makes them inherently privileged and racist.

New Hampshire passed the anti-discrimination law as a set of amendments to the biennial budget in 2021. Rather than banning specific “divisive concepts,” the amendments sought to bar teachers from “teaching, advocating, instructing, or training” students that one group is inherently superior or inferior to another; that people are inherently racist, sexist, etc., based on the group they’re in; that people should be discriminated against based on their group; to stop people from treating other equally.

While the law allowed for teachers to discuss issues like racism and sexism in class, there was no clear legal line that distinguished such discussions from actual teaching, opponents complained.

Megan Tuttle, president of the New Hampshire NEA teachers union, said the law “stifled New Hampshire teachers’ efforts to provide a true and honest education. Students, families, and educators should rejoice over this court ruling which restores the teaching of truth and the right to learn for all Granite State students.”

Michael Garrity, spokesman for New Hampshire’s Department of Justice, said the state is reviewing Barbadoro’s ruling.

“The state is currently reviewing the court’s order and will consider next steps, including whether to appeal.”

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.

NH Taxpayers Now Spending $20k per Pupil on K-12 Education

Granite State taxpayers have broken the $20,000 barrier on school spending, even as K-12 academic performance remains flat and school enrollment declines.

“Last week, the New Hampshire Department of Education released its newest cost per pupil data for the 2022-2023 school year,” the department said in a press release. “The new statewide average operating cost per pupil of $20,323 is a 4.8 percent increase from last year’s average cost per pupil of $19,400. Total expenditures for the 2022-2023 school year were more than $3.8 billion in New Hampshire.”

To put the $20,323 in perspective, tuition to attend Bishop Guertin High School, a highly-ranked private Catholic school in Nashua, is $16,400. Mount Royal Academy is the highest-ranked Catholic school in the state. High school tuition is $10,700.

New Hampshire also spends far more per pupil than most of the nation. Across the U.S., the average cost per pupil is shy of $14,295, putting New Hampshire in the top 10 nationally for education spending. And as state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut told NHJournal, taxpayer spending on public schools has been soaring for more than a decade.

“The statewide average for New Hampshire’s cost per pupil has increased by nearly 87 percent since 2000 when it cost less than $11,000 per student. During this same time frame, public school enrollment has dropped by about 20 percent statewide,” Edelblut said.

According to Edelblut, student enrollment numbers in the Granite State have dropped from 207,684 in 2002 to 165,095 in 2023. That’s a decrease of 42,589 public school students, or about a 20.5 percent decline during the past 21 years.

Despite the massive increase in spending, Granite State students are struggling on achievement tests like the SAT. House Education Committee vice chair Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) said it’s time to pay attention to the poor return on investment.

“It’s pretty evident that over probably a couple of decades, spending is going up, and achievement scores are pretty much flat,” Cordelli said.

New Hampshire’s 2023 SAT scores dropped off slightly again. The junior class scored 35 percent proficient in math compared to 37 percent in 2022 and 42 percent in 2021. Students also lost ground on reading proficiency in 2023, with 60 percent proficiency compared to 61 percent proficiency in 2022 and 63 percent proficiency in 2021.

Edelblut said the increasing cost per pupil is partly due to increasing costs, and partly due to the steady drop in the number of students. 

“While we have and will continue to work to expand resources for all students, it is clear that we are in a challenging environment of escalating costs and decreasing student enrollment,” Edelblut said. 

Some school districts manage to come in under the new average, with Manchester at $16,636, Nashua spending $18,107, and Bedford at $17,418. Concord is spending $22,190 per pupil, and New Hampshire’s highest cost per pupil is New Castle at $41,754, a little more than the $41,650 tuition at The Derryfield School, an exclusive private day school in Manchester.

The record spending for public school students comes as the legislature is being pressed to find a way to change the way public education is funded. New Hampshire relies largely on local property taxes to fund public education, with the state sending an adequacy grant to districts that average $4,100 per pupil.

The district responsible for New Hampshire’s current school funding scheme thanks to lawsuits in the 1980s and 1990s, Claremont, is spending almost $22,000 per pupil. The Contoocook Valley Regional School District, behind a lawsuit that could change New Hampshire’s funding system again, is spending more than $25,000 per pupil.

The recent decision in the ConVal lawsuit has the state under court order to increase the adequacy aid grant to at least $7,300. Cordelli said that increase puts New Hampshire on the path to an income tax. The ConVal decision is stayed as the state appeals to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, giving the legislature time to find another funding plan.

Parents and homeowners frustrated with high property taxes and poor achievement are going to demand changes, Cordelli said.

“At some point, the public is going to become aware, and something is going to happen,” Cordelli said.

Parents are already finding lower cost, and sometimes better quality, opportunities outside the public school system. Kate Baker Demers, executive director of Children’s Scholarship Fund New Hampshire, said the average Education Freedom Account grant in New Hampshire is $5,255, about a quarter of the new cost per pupil for public school students.

“So, if a parent taxpayer is concerned about the high spending and cost, they could choose an EFA and save the state $14,745 per child. Which is, what, the amount that other states spend in total?” Baker Demers said.

This school year, EFA enrollment went up 20 percent to 4,211 students in New Hampshire. Of that total, 1,577 are new to the program. Taxpayers are now paying a little more than $22 million for EFA grants.

Case of Catholic Student Punished After Expressing Opinion on Gender Goes to Court

Exeter High School Athletic District Bill Ball said the school respects all students.

But the attorney for an Exeter student who was punished for expressing his opinions about gender said the school needs to respect the rule of law.

During the bench trial in Rockingham Superior Court, Ball and Assistant Exeter High School Principal Marcy Dovholuk explained why they punished a Catholic student for what was a private text sent outside of school.

The football coach benched the freshman student for one game in 2021 over a discussion he had with a classmate. He is seeking $1 in damages. He also wants Ball to admit wrongdoing. The student insists he was punished for defending his view that there are only two genders, male and female.

His attorney, Richard Lehmann, told NHJournal Exeter is another example of New Hampshire school districts running roughshod over anyone who disagrees with the new, extreme gender mores.

“It’s bad enough that children are made to feel uncomfortable expressing traditional views on matters related to gender in school,” Lehmann said. “Or when schools announce they will lie to parents about their children’s in-school gender expression, as Manchester, Exeter, and other schools do. But it’s made even worse when schools reach beyond their gates and into children’s private lives and seek to control their behavior at home or in private communications with other kids that happen entirely outside of any context related to the school,” Lehmann said.

Lehamann’s client, John Doe, is using a pseudonym to protect his identity. He has since left Exeter and is enrolled at a Catholic high school. Doe testified he was talking with friends on a bus after school about another student who claimed to be “non-binary” during Spanish class. Doe testified he thought that odd since the Spanish language relies on feminine and masculine genders.

The non-binary student was not involved or aware, of the conversation at the time.

Instead, a female classmate who was not part of the conversation later confronted Doe, insisting that humans come in more than two genders. Doe and this female student then got into a heated conversation, with Doe arguing the mainstream stance that there are two sexes. Doe based this view on both science and his religious beliefs.

The girl texted him later that evening to continue the argument. At one point, Doe told the girl to “STFU,” which he testified was an attempt to be funny.

The next day, Doe was called in by Dovholuk and informed he would be punished for the conversation he had the night before over text. Dovholuk claimed the punishment was for bullying and bad language and not Doe’s beliefs regarding gender.

“At Exeter, we respect people, and we respect how they identify,” Dovholuk reportedly said.

Ball testified he told Doe, “We respect all.”

Lehmann said the United States Supreme Court already ruled that schools cannot punish students for things they say off campus. In June 2021, the High Court ruled against a Pennsylvania high school that suspended cheerleader Brandi Levy for using the f-word in a social media video about the cheer team.

“Three months before the facts of this case arose, the United States Supreme Court dismissed an athletic sanction imposed by a coach because the authority of the athletic department to penalize students for engaging in free speech could only extend to off-campus, non-school activities in rare circumstances,” Lehmann said.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that school districts cannot police students’ speech when they are not in school.

“From the student speaker’s perspective, regulations of off-campus speech, when coupled with regulations of on-campus speech, include all the speech a student utters during the full 24-hour day. That means courts must be more skeptical of a school’s efforts to regulate off-campus speech, for doing so may mean the student cannot engage in that kind of speech at all,” the justices wrote.

The Doe case is now being considered by Judge Andrew Schulman, who is expected to render a verdict in the coming weeks. Doe is doing well at his new school, Lehmann said.

“He is a great kid from a terrific family, and Exeter High School is a lesser place because of his absence.”

Former Concord Teacher Pleads Guilty to Raping Student

A man once entrusted with teaching Granite State children is going to prison after pleading guilty to raping a student at Rundlett Middle School in Concord.

Primo “Howie” Leung, 40, was employed at Rundlett and Concord High School before his arrest in April 2019 on child rape charges in Massachusetts.

He entered guilty pleas Wednesday in Middlesex District Court in Woburn, Mass., to two charges of aggravated rape of a child with a 10-year age difference; two counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under 14; and two counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older.

The plea agreement will see the disgraced teacher serve at least six years in a Massachusetts prison and then probation for another three years after his release. Leung is required to register as a sex offender, wear a GPS monitor while on probation, and have no contact with the victim or her family. He is also to stay away from the Concord School District.

Leung is further barred from ever teaching again in New Hampshire or likely anywhere else in the U.S. His teaching credentials in New Hampshire were revoked when he was first charged four years ago, and his name was reported to the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education Certification. 

“The Department worked aggressively to ensure that Mr. Leung will never be allowed to work with students again, and it will continue to proactively protect the safety of all students,” said New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut.

Leung reportedly used his position at the Concord middle school to groom the victim, then 13, kissing and fondling her in Concord starting around 2014. He also encouraged her to attend a summer camp for English language learners, where he volunteered. It was at the camp in Newton, Mass., where Leung reportedly raped the girl. The girl spent two summers at the camp.

“There are no words to describe the heinous actions against this young girl and no sentence that could ever bring back her innocence,” Edelblut said. “As educators, it is our job to protect students and prioritize their safety, but Mr. Leung instead chose to deliberately victimize a student entrusted to his care. It is our hope that, now four years later, she has found the strength, support, and purpose to overcome the violence and massive breach of trust.”

The girl and her family received a $1 million settlement from the district in 2022 to settle a lawsuit they brought accusing the district of failing to keep her safe from a predator.

After the accusations against Leung were finally taken seriously by the district in 2018, Concord School District officials decided to hire an independent investigator, who reported district officials ignored clear warning signs about Leung’s treatment of female students for years. At one point in 2014, a seventh-grade girl was suspended for reporting that Leung was having an affair with a student. The district did not investigate her story; instead, she was disciplined for “gossiping,” according to the report.

There were multiple instances of Leung’s behavior with teen girls being discussed among staff, with some saying that he made them feel uncomfortable with the way he treated the girls. But over the years, he was never formally investigated by the district and never brought up for any discipline for his behavior. 

After a group of students reported Leung to officials in 2018 for being intimate with a teen girl in his car, the district finally investigated. However, according to the report, Leung stayed on the job and remained around students for another three and a half months.

Leung has yet to be charged in New Hampshire. The independent report stated there could be multiple victims in the Granite State. 

Rulings in Two Education Funding Lawsuits Coming Soon

Could the next 60 days see an end to New Hampshire’s school funding system as we know it?

Rockingham Superior Court Judge David Ruoff told lawyers Wednesday he is set to rule sometime in the next 60 days on either the final decision in the Contoocook Valley Regional School District adequacy grant lawsuit or the summary judgment for the Grafton County lawsuit seeking to cancel the Statewide Education Property Tax or SWEPT.

“Time is of the essence here for everyone involved,” Ruoff said.

New Hampshire lawmakers, education leaders, and local school boards have been tussling for decades over how to fund a constitutionally-mandated adequate education. Despite hundreds of millions in new funds going to education this year alone, there is still no agreement on how to pay for public schools.

Ruoff is now the one man in the state who could change everything thanks to the lawsuits which landed before him in court. 

The original judge on the Grafton County case, Grafton Superior Court Judge Lawrence MacLeod, recused himself last year, citing a potential conflict of interest. MacLeod is a property owner in one of the property-rich towns pushing to keep the current SWEPT system in place.

MacLeod’s recusal sent the case to Ruoff. Ruoff is also under orders from the New Hampshire Supreme Court to decide in the ConVal case exactly how much the state should pay per pupil.

In both cases, the school districts claim the way the state is currently funding education, using an unevenly enforced SWEPT to pay for adequacy grants that do not cover all necessary expenses, is unconstitutional.

Ruoff initially ruled in ConVal’s favor, agreeing the state is not paying enough per pupil, but he left setting a particular amount to legislators. On appeal, the Supreme Court ruled Ruoff needed to hold a trial and set a specific dollar amount.

New Hampshire upped its per pupil adequacy grant this year to $4,100. But the plaintiffs in the ConVal case are looking for just short of $10,000 per pupil. Ruoff listened to weeks of testimony this year; his highly anticipated ruling is pending.

With approximately 160,000 students in the state’s K-12 public schools, a $10,000 adequacy payment would cost state taxpayers $1.6 billion yearly.

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the state and the Grafton County plaintiffs argued in court Wednesday over an injunction to set the SWEPT rate at 0, as the plaintiff wants. Ruoff indicated he would issue a judgment in the case without need for a trial since neither side disputes the facts about how schools are funded.

SWEPT accounts for 30 percent of education funding in New Hampshire. Under a law change in 2011, a loophole was created. Now as many as 30 wealthier communities in New Hampshire are keeping a portion of the money raised through SWEPT, essentially getting to set a negative property tax rate, while poorer communities end up with higher SWEPT rates to make up for their low property values.

Michael Jaoude, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the uneven SWEPT burden violates the Claremont decision from the 1990s, which ruled there is a constitutional right to adequate education and that the cost needs to be shared equally.

“No resident should have a greater burden of funding that constitutional right than another,” Jaoude said.

SWEPT started in 1999 as a response to the Claremont decision, which found the state has a constitutional obligation to fund adequate education. The money raised, more than $360 million estimated in the coming year, is used to fund state adequacy grants. 

Senior Assistant Attorney General Sam Garland said ruling for the Grafton County plaintiffs would have disastrous impacts on local town and school budgets. Garland said the plaintiffs have not shown that the SWEPT system is unconstitutional, and their arguments don’t hold up.

“We don’t think they’ve made that showing, and we don’t think they can make that showing as a matter of law,” Garland said.

Garland said even if the 2011 law creating the SWEPT exemptions might be unconstitutional, the tax itself is not, and Ruoff should allow the rate to be set.

Ruoff indicated the whole SWEPT issue might be moot depending on his eventual ruling in the ConVal case.

Altschiller: NH Needs A Law Requiring Parents to Love Their Children

New Hampshire Democrats say they will keep fighting the Parents Bill of Rights after SB 272 passed the state Senate on a party-line vote. And at least one Senate Democrat says the state should pass a law requiring parents to “support and love their children” instead.

The bill, which passed the Senate Thursday on a 14-10 partisan vote, expands the rights of parents to be informed about the education of their children in areas ranging from the curriculum to their kids’ behavior on the school campus. While the bill would cover a wide range of areas, Democrats focused entirely on its impact on schools that currently refuse to disclose to parents their children’s actions regarding sex and gender.

The law does not mandate that schools proactively inform parents, but it does require them to answer parents’ questions when asked.

“No school should withhold information from parents about a child because the school thinks it knows that child’s interests better than the parents,” said Senate President Jed Bradley (R-Wolfeboro).

Democrats adamantly disagreed, arguing teachers — not parents — should be the “trusted advisors” to children questioning their sexuality or gender.

 

 

“It’s just devastating to think that the safety and ability to determine who you are is taken away from our students when our teachers are no longer our trusted advisors,” said Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (D-Portsmouth).

“Unnecessarily outing students [to their parents] at the direction of our government through state law opens these children up to a litany of dangers, including hostility, rejection, isolation, and even violence from their parents or other family members,” Kwoka added.

And New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley claimed informing parents will result in “some kids being beaten to death.”

Polls show Granite State voters, including Democrats, overwhelmingly believe parents, not school employees, should have the final say regarding the education of their children.

Sen. Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton) said the Democrats’ talking points are simply wrong. The bill merely consolidates the rights parents have under the law, requires school district employees to tell parents the truth about their child’s behavior regarding sex and gender when asked, and tightens up requirements for teachers to report suspected abuse or neglect.

“It says that schools and school employees cannot lie to parents,” Lang said.

That was a step too far for Sen. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham), who said the legislation is 180 degrees off in its approach. In questions for the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), Altschiller said that rather than empowering parents, “Should we not enumerate [in the law] that it is a parent’s responsibility to love them and support them  for who they are?”

Asked to repeat the question, Altschiller said that just as parents are required by law to feed and clothe their kids, “Should we not require parents to support and love and bring up their children to have these close relationships?”

“I think it would be difficult to put that into legislation,” Carson replied.

Sen. Suzanne Prentiss (D-Lebanon) claimed there was no actual need for a bill to give parents the right to be told the truth about their children.

“What is the real need, how did we get here?” she asked.

Carson reminded the Senate the bill was inspired in part by a lawsuit brought by a Manchester mother who was told by school employees they could not tell her the truth about her child’s behavior regarding gender.

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

Sen. Dan Innis (R-Bradford) an openly gay man, said the bill does right by parents and children. It will help teachers guide children and families in sometimes emotionally difficult situations.

“This bill is not anti-anything,” Innis said. “This bill is pro-child, pro-parent, pro-family, and, in many ways, pro-teacher,” Innis said.

The House will now take up its own version of the bill next week, and another hotly contested debate is expected.

MSD ‘No Comment’ On Keeping Students’ Trans Activity Secret From Parents

Citizens may have a lot of questions about Manchester School District’s policy of keeping students’ transgender activity secret from their parents. But thus far, officials in the state’s largest school district are not talking. Asked about the policy, school board officials, including Mayor Joyce Craig, all declined to defend it.

The district is currently being sued by a parent who claims it uses the policy to lie to her and other parents about their children and their gender identification. According to a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of the district, the district’s defense is its belief Manchester parents have no right to know what is going on in the schools when it comes to gender issues.

“(T)his motion can be easily resolved by answering one discrete question: Do school districts have a legally enforceable duty to inform parents when a student uses a name or gender pronoun different than that assigned at birth? Because the answer to this question is no, the Complaint should be dismissed,” MSD’s filing states.

Craig, who chairs the school board, declined requests for comment on the policy. She also would not answer questions about whether she supports the policy. None of the members of the board’s policy committee, Leslie Want, Nicole Leapley, Peter Perich, Sean Parr, or Jason Bonilla, would discuss the matter, either.

Andrew Toland, communications director for the district, declined to discuss the lawsuit. Toland pointed to language in the motion to dismiss to counter the claim that the district requires staff to lie about transgender students to their parents.

“In other words, contrary to plaintiff’s characterizations, the district’s policy does not completely prohibit District staff from disclosing a student’s gender identity and expression to parents, nor does it require District staff to ‘lie,’” the motions to dismiss states. “It does not even contain an express mandate at all. It simply recognizes that the student has a right to privacy and that staff ‘should not’ disclose such information unless the student has authorized it.”

Critics note the policy, as stated, expressly strips authority from parents and gives it to children and teachers.

That is not how school board member Ken Tassey understands the policy. Speaking as a parent, Tassey said in practice, the policy would force school staff to use a student’s preferred pronouns and gender identity in school, but use that same child’s birth pronouns and identity when talking to parents who may not know what is going on.

“The policy requires that school staff lie to parents. It usurps the parent’s right to be informed about their children’s health and to exercise their parental love,” Tassey said. “The policy places the school district and the employees above the child’s parent, which is bizarre and arrogant.”

Tassey said the policy is predicated on the idea that all parents are potentially abusive toward their LGBTQI+ children, and that disclosing a child’s nonconforming identity would put that child in danger. That is simply not the case, he said.

“The vast majority of parents are going to hug their kids and say I love you,” he said.

Tassey is also concerned the policy does not have an age range and would apply to students as young as first or second grade. If a child disclosed gender dysmorphia to a guidance counselor or teacher, who may or may not be trained to deal with such a psychologically complex issue, that child’s parents would be kept in the dark if the child wished it.

Jonathan Butcher, the Will Skillman Fellow in Education with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Manchester parents are not alone when it comes to school districts keeping secrets about their children.

“The issue of school officials hiding information about a child’s confusion about their sex is a real concern. Districts and even state departments around the country have made such secrecy to be official policy, including in New Jersey, Kansas, and elsewhere,” Butcher said. “Except in very specific cases related to a child’s safety, educators should be required to inform parents about any health-related issues concerning their child. Public school officials should not make it a policy to keep secrets about a minor child from his or her parents.”

A proposed legislative solution, the Parental Bill of Rights, would have required schools to make those disclosures to parents. The bill was shot down this year when Democrats and some Republicans objected, claiming that it would put children in danger from their own parents. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, strongly opposed the Parental Bill of Rights.

“This legislation will do real, lasting harm to kids and should not become law. It’s so important that LGBTQ+ youth in New Hampshire know that we see them, we support them, and that they can be themselves,” Pappas said earlier this year when the bill was pending.

The Parental Bill of Rights was also opposed by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella and Gov. Chris Sununu. Assistant Attorney General Sean Locke, with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Unit, testified before lawmakers in May that parts of the bill were legally 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.”

Butcher said much of the concern about outing students stems from the actions being undertaken by President Joe Biden’s administration. Biden is proposing changes to the Title IX program to combat bullying against trans students which change the definitions of sex and gender.

“It essentially proposes that schools must treat ‘sex’ to mean ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ [as opposed to biology] and so schools would have to adopt policies to conform or risk an (Office of Civil Rights) investigation,” Butcher said.

Biden recently issued an executive order to increase access to so-called gender-affirming health care.

Butcher said the Biden team is pursuing a radical agenda that rides roughshod over parents when it comes to the care of their own children.

“Such policies could include one that says educators may not tell parents when a child wants to ‘assume’ a different gender at school. Thus, the overall policy does more to advance radical gender ideas instead of affirming parents as a child’s primary caregiver,” Butcher said.

 

NH Schools Alerted Over Possible Threat

Schools in the Granite State got a concerning message Wednesday from the Department of Safety’s Information and Analysis Center about possible threats in schools set for this Friday.

The bulletin from the NHIAC states there is a rich of online messaging about possible school threats on Dec. 17. The nature of the threats at this time is not considered credible, and the online messaging appears to be a national issue, and not specific to New Hampshire.

“The New Hampshire Department of Education has been made aware of online messaging that was brought to the attention of the NH Information and Analysis Center, calling for possible school threats on Dec. 17, 2021,” said Kimberly Houghton, the communications administrator for the Department of Education. “NHIAC is not aware of any credible threat pertaining to any specific schools or locations, and is urging everyone to please report found threats to local police departments.”

The bulletin prompted many schools in New Hampshire to alert parents to the issue on Wednesday. 

“Although there are no known threats to any specific schools or locations, it is important that we share this information to increase awareness with our staff, our families and our communities,” one district states in an email alert. 

Parents and students are being asked to check social media for anything concerning that should be shared with law enforcement. Any potential threats should be reported to police immediately by calling 9-1-1, according to the alerts. It is not known if any New Hampshire schools are closing on Friday as a result of the threats. 

New Hampshire has not experienced a school shooting. 

The bulletin from the NHIAC comes a day after the ninth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting in which a gunman entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered 20 children and seven teachers and staffers before killing himself.