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Upper Valley Nonprofit Behind Kindergarten Nudity Curriculum

After Chris Rivet testified before the House Education Committee about the troubling, sexualized curriculum offered to his kindergarten-aged son, he was quickly labeled a liar on social media.

But documents shared with NHJournal show the program “Caring for Kids” is very real. The kindergarten curriculum in which adults encourage children to draw genitalia comes from WISE, an Upper Valley nonprofit with a history of putting questionable content into public elementary schools.

Rivet told NHJournal he initially did not want to testify last week about SB 272, the Parents Bill of Rights, because he did not want to deal with people opposed to the measure.

“I dislike how politicized it’s become. People fear speaking out because of the backlash,” Rivet said.

People who support the Parents Bill of Rights were labeled transphobic and “white supremacists” by elected Democrats like Rep. Maria Perez (D-Milford). Though initially hesitant, Rivet said Granite Staters need to know about what’s really going on in schools. So, he went to the State House and read from the “Caring for Kids” teacher’s manual.

“‘Now that we have talked about our bodies and our public and private parts, we are going to do an activity. We are going to trace our bodies, and then you can draw your body just as it looks when you come out of the bathtub or shower,’” Rivet read. “It then goes on, on the second page, to say, ‘If a child is hesitant about drawing, you can gently suggest adding more parts. Can you add your elbows? How about your fingernails? A penis? Another useful approach is to offer to draw for them. Where would you like me to put the nipples?’”

Rivet and his wife immediately saw red flags when they learned about the program, about which parents were not given prior notice.

“I thought, ‘Why does my kid need to learn the word vulva at 5 years old?’” Rivet said.

He asked not to use the name of his child’s school so that his son could avoid harassment.

The curriculum comes from WISE, a nonprofit with a mission to serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. WISE representatives did not respond to a request for comment.

The organization took heat in 2018 after it went to schools in Vermont and New Hampshire with a survey asking fifth graders about their sex lives, with questions ranging from gender and sexual identity to the sexual activities they engaged in.

School officials at the Windsor School, for example, were forced to apologize for the WISE-supplied questionnaire, which asked ten-year-old students questions about their romantic and sexual relationships, according to media reports, conducted without parental knowledge or consent.

“To any family involved in this survey, we sincerely apologize,” then-Superintendent David Baker said at the time. “Sometimes, in an effort to do good, people go too far, too fast.”

The aim of classes like the one Rivet objected to is to teach children about bodily integrity as part of a way to combat child sexual abuse. Rivet said it is clear there are good intentions with the class but dangerous execution. The class essentially has adult women coaching young boys on how to draw their own penises. If the gender roles were reversed, with an adult man teaching a 5-year-old girl how to draw her own vagina, most people would see the problem, he said.

“It gets really gross really quickly,” he said.

There are other programs with the same goals that are more age-appropriate, Rivet said. He said the one used by WISE includes inappropriate methods based on junk science. Rivet says he is a science teacher and former scientist. He investigated the program’s evidence-based data and found it wanting.

“The evidence behind the program is comically bad,” Rivet claims.

Rivet is frustrated by how his local school, district, and the state Department of Education responded to his complaint. He does not see parents getting better information about what is happening even if SB 272 becomes law. 

“I don’t have hope anyone will follow the Parents Bill of Rights even if it passes,” he said.

Giving parents notice about sex education classes in public schools is already mandated under New Hampshire law. But the Care for Kids program is being presented under the guise of something along the lines of a social-emotional learning program. 

Rivet says he is a big believer in public education, but felt he has no other choice than to send his son to a private school next year. He has friends who are making similar decisions, and Rivet expects that trend to continue. Enrollment in New Hampshire public schools has been dropping steadily for years.

“In the end, it’s still frustrating,” Rivet said. 


Sununu Center Victims Unhappy With $100 Million Deal

Despite offering $100 million to the hundreds of Sununu Youth Detention Center abuse victims, it looks like New Hampshire will still end up in court. 

Lawyers and victims expressed frustration and anger at the deal, approved by the state Senate late last week.

“I should never have put faith in the state to create a fair settlement process. They already proved they don’t care,” Dwayne Underwood, one of the victims said.

There have been hundreds of allegations of misconduct and abuse against staff at what was then called the Youth Development Center between 1963 and 2018. That abuse included gang rapes, being forced to fight each other for food, and being locked in solitary confinement for weeks or months. The center has been under investigation since 2019 and is scheduled to shut down in 2023.

David Vicinanzo, an attorney with Nixon Peabody, said his firm has filed 450 lawsuits against the state over the Sununu Center abuse and said 100 more lawsuits will be filed soon. Vicinanzo plans to push forward with the lawsuits instead of taking the settlement.

“We are full speed ahead preparing the cases for trial or mediation, which may be appropriate depending on whether the state decides to be fair or continues to shortchange and disrespect the victims,” Vicinanzo said.

Anthony Carr, who represents Underwood, said the victims continue to be ignored.

“This bill will not bring justice to the minors who were abused under the state’s care. It’s unfortunate that the victims of the Sununu Youth Services Center and the Youth Detention Center and their advocates were not consulted when creating this fund. The result is a process that is not victim-centered and, speaking for the many victims we represent, will not be widely used, if at all,” Carr said.

Both Carr and Vicinanzo would rather see the legislature make changes to the bill, especially the way the settlement defines abuse. Under the law as passed, survivors like Underwood would be frozen out as their experience would not be considered abuse.

“I was forced to undress regularly in Wilkins Cottage and expose myself to the guards for no good reason. I was forced to swim naked by the guards both on and off property. One time, a guard took me by van to a campsite by a river and he made me swim naked with him,” Underwood said. “This has caused me great trauma over the years, and I just don’t see why the state would not recognize what I went through as sexual abuse.”

The law also includes a maximum $1.5 million settlement cap for victims, depending on the abuse suffered, and contingent on the state’s definition of abuse. It is another point the lawyers want to be changed.

Vicinanzo has been critical of Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem). Vicinanzo said Morse has refused to meet with victims.

“Many of the victims pleaded with Senate President Morse for a short meeting weeks ago so they could share their pain personally with him before he managed this process to the vote he wanted … He responded that he was ‘not interested’ in meeting with them,” Vicinanzo said. “Unfortunately, he is not the only political leader who still has no empathy for victims or understanding of their suffering. The child victims of the state have been ignored and dehumanized for years, so the senator’s cold shoulder is nothing new.”

Morse, who is running in the crowded GOP primary to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, did not respond to requests for comment.

Vicinanzo said the state needs to reckon with the victims.

“After being ignored, disbelieved, and disrespected by the state for decades, we are a critical mass right now that the state has to take seriously and treat with decency and fairness,” he said.

So far, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office brought more than 108 charges against 11 former staff members for acts committed against 20 victims.