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Leavitt Calls Out Manchester Schools, Pappas Over Parental Rights

Standing outside the Manchester School District office, GOP congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt called out the city’s schools and her Democratic opponent over the issue of parental rights.

“Far left Democrats, including my opponent (U.S. Rep.) Chris Pappas, do not believe that parents have a fundamental right to know when their child is expressing concerns over their gender status at school,” Leavitt said. She was surrounded by supporters waving “Moms for Karoline” signs.

Leavitt was responding to a recent ruling by Hillsborough Superior Court Judge Amy Messer rejecting a Manchester mother’s demand she be told about her child’s behavior at school regarding gender identity. District policy forbids teachers and employees from informing parents if children adopt a different gender or engage in related behavior while at school.

Messer ruled that parents ultimately do not have the right to direct how their children are educated in public schools.

Leavitt said if elected she would push for a federal parents’ bill of rights.

“Parents have an inalienable right to know what’s going on in their child’s classroom, and in Congress, I will proudly support legislation to enact a federal parental bill of rights,” Leavitt said. “I will always ensure that Granite State moms and dads feel heard at the highest level of our government. That is why I am here today, and I will always put parents over politicians.”

Manchester School District spokesman Andrew Toland declined to comment on Leavitt’s remarks, saying the lawsuit is still potentially pending. After Messer dismissed the lawsuit, the mother’s attorney Richard Lehmann told NHJournal he plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Leavitt said the district’s policy is based on the false assumption that parents will automatically harm their LGBTQ+ identifying children and will not seek to do what is in the true best interest of their child.

“I spoke directly and personally with the mother who filed this lawsuit,” Leavitt said. “You know what she told me? She told me, ‘I may have lost my daughter. My daughter may have taken her own life if I was not accidentally informed that she was expressing concerns over her gender at school.’ She said, ‘Who would’ve been responsible then if my sweet innocent child lost and took her own life? She was expressing concerns over her emotional and mental health crying out for help to these teachers,’” Leavitt said.

Activists with the liberal organization Granite State Progress told NH Journal Leavitt is wrong to champion parents’ rights over the school’s policy to keep gender identity secrets. Children who identify as transgender or some other variation of LGBTQ+ run the risk of parental violence when they come out, said Sarah Robinson with the organization.

“We believe that students deserve to go to school to learn in a place of belonging. And as a mom myself, I believe that my children deserve to be valued in whatever space they step into. And we know that coming out to parents is a big decision for students and teachers and educators and staff of schools. Interrupting the parent-child relationship is not the way this conversation needs to go,” Robinson said.

Asked what other information teachers should keep secret from parents about their children’s behavior, Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, deflected the question. Instead, she claimed most parents in New Hampshire support Manchester’s policy of secrecy, based on the most recent school board election results.

“Here’s the deal: We had school board races up and down New Hampshire in the spring, and the candidates who came out on top were those who supported all kids in the classroom. And parents who are involved in their children’s lives and create supportive, loving environments at home. Their kids come to them and talk to them. And kids who do not have that at home need to be safe and supported and firmed in the other spaces they are in,” Rice Hawkins said.

Pappas declined to respond to requests for comment. However, just hours after Leavitt’s press conference he joined his fellow House Democrats in a vote to kill an amendment to protect parents’ right to know.

“Every House Democrat just voted against requiring parental notice and consent before a school provides services related to sexual orientation or gender identity,” tweeted House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) “Outrageous. Parents have a right to know what schools are doing with their kids.”

 

NH Judge: Parental Rights ‘Not Absolute’ in New Hampshire

A Hillsborough Superior Court judge has dismissed the lawsuit brought by a Manchester mother who says the school district’s transgender policy is interfering with her rights as a parent, with the judge ruling the mother’s rights as a parent are “not absolute.” 

Judge Amy Messer ruled the Manchester School District’s policy directing teachers and staff not to fully and accurately inform parents about their child’s expressed gender identity is fine. Messer ruled 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.

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

The mother spoke with school staff, including the student’s guidance counselor. 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, according to the lawsuit.

Even though the staff she spoke to initially agreed, the mother soon received an email from the school principal stating that, due to the district’s policy, the mother’s instructions were being overridden. The principal stated the district’s policy requires school staff to keep such matters secret from parents if the child so chooses, according to the lawsuit. 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.

Messer ruled the policy, which was originally produced by the National School Boards Association and adopted by the Manchester school district, does not interfere with parental rights because parents can still direct their child’s home life. Parents can still interact with their children, direct their medical care, and supervise their social lives outside of school.

“In short, the policy places no limit on the plaintiff’s ability to parent her child as she sees fit,” Messer wrote.

Messer’s ruling mirrored arguments laid out by school district attorneys, who essentially claimed Doe had no right to direct what happens to her child in the school building.

The district’s motion to dismiss claimed the policy did not interfere with the parent-child relationship, since the mother was free to have the child identify as their birth gender at home. However, according to the motion, the mother has no rights when it comes to the child’s identity at school.

“Whatever the scope of a parent’s rights vis-a-vis their transgender or gender nonconforming children, they do not include the right to force a school district to act as a conduit for the parent exercise of those rights in this fashion,” the motion stated.

Manchester School District did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Doe’s attorney, Richard Lehmann, said he was not done with the case.

“We will appeal the ruling,” Lehmann said.

Issues like Manchester’s transgender policy were behind this year’s push in the State House for a parental bill of rights. The proposal died in the previous session after Gov. Chris Sununu signaled he would veto the bill over concerns about the privacy and safety of the students.

A new New York Times/Siena College poll finds widespread opposition to the approach to sex and gender policies in schools pushed by progressive districts like Manchester. More than two-thirds of registered voters oppose sexual orientation and gender identity being taught in elementary school, Among independent voters, 71 percent oppose it, 57 percent of them strongly.

Shannon McGinley, executive director with the conservative Cornerstone Action organization, declined to comment on the lawsuit’s dismissal. McGinley and Cornerstone vocally supported the parents’ bill of rights.

“Schools are not courts of law and should not have the authority to unilaterally deprive people of recognized legal rights. This is a government entity that is increasingly being given vast and unquestioned power over our lives and the lives of our children,” McGinley said of the bill.

 

Judge Won’t End Exeter Teen’s Trans Speech Case; Cites ‘Constitutional Issues’

Rockingham Superior Court Judge David Ruoff rejected requests for summary judgment from both the Exeter High School student claiming he was discriminated against for saying there are only two genders and the school’s attorney, citing “constitutional issues.”

Attorneys for both SAU 16 and the Exeter High School student known as M.P. asked Ruoff for summary judgment. That would essentially have the judge give one side a win and close the case.

Ruoff, however, said there is too much in the case that is in dispute for him to make such a ruling, including constitutional questions that need to be addressed.

“Each version of the relevant events implicates different constitutional issues and consideration,” Ruoff wrote in the July 29 ruling. “Thus, due to the presence of a genuine issue of material fact, the court finds summary judgment inappropriate.”

In his lawsuit, M.P. claims he was disciplined for expressing his views, informed by his Catholic faith, that there are only two genders. M.P. claims he expressed those views outside of the school campus—on a school bus and later through a text app—and that he was suspended from the football team after the conversation was reported to school officials.

Exeter High School and SAU 16 officials say M.P. was disciplined for being a bully and not for expressing his religious views.

The district’s attorney, Michel Eaton claimed M.P. is not the victim of religious discrimination but instead was benched for a game by his coach for violating the team’s code of conduct. The benching had nothing to do with the school’s transgender discrimination policies, according to Eaton.

“M.P.’s coach did not decide to bench M.P. based upon M.P.’s opinion that there are only two genders, nor would he. Rather, M.P. was benched for using crude, inappropriate, and disrespectful language while communicating with Student Doe. This behavior was consistent with M.P.’s documented history of bullying and inappropriate behavior, including such behavior on the school bus and such behavior targeted at Student Doe specifically,” Eaton wrote in the district’s response to the lawsuit.

Court records indicate M.P. and Student Doe’s conversation included M.P. calling Student Doe a “bozo,” and M.P. telling Student Doe to “STFU” because “there’s only 2 genders.” Student Doe took those texts to Coach William Ball, according to the court record.

Ball then took M.P. to Vice Principal Marcy Dovholuk, who told him he would be benched for a week because of the “conversation about pronouns.”

Ball later reduced the suspension to one game, based on M.P.’s alleged violation of the athletic code of conduct.

M.P. ‘s lawyers say the benching was in retaliation for his conservative view of gender.

Exeter High School and SAU 16 have been on the frontlines of the culture wars in New Hampshire. Andres Mejia, the director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice for the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, is part of the federal lawsuit against the state over the so-called “banned concepts” law, claiming the state is trying to stop teaching about racial and gender issues.

The anti-discrimination law prohibits students from 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.”

Mejia is also a member of the controversial Black Lives Matter organization and denied it creates a conflict when dealing with students based on race or ideology.

Last year, Exeter High School also got in trouble after staff at the prom started putting Sharpie marks on the hands of students who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19. Numerous parents complained, prompting a joint review by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Education, which called the prom fiasco a “disturbing failure.”

The review found the staff at the prom had already been told by administrators to not do anything of the kind before they started marking students.

“The fact that supervising SAU 16 staff did not stop the contact tracing procedure, despite having acknowledged receiving the email from the superintendent informing all staff that they were not to ask students about their vaccine status, is a very disturbing failure to protect students,” the statement reads.

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and DOE joint investigation came after months of complaints from parents ranging from the prom incident to the way a sexual assault was reported. The review looked at six issues in the school district. While lapses in some cases were noted, there did not appear to be any criminal or civil charges forthcoming, according to the report.

“The AGO does not find any violation of New Hampshire law regarding discrimination due to this issue. However, both the AGO and DOE are deeply concerned regarding the public marking of students’ hands and the lack of protection for students’ vaccination information,” the joint statement read.

Lawsuit: Manchester School District is Violating Constitution

The Manchester School District’s transgender student policy violates the state constitution which protects the right of parents to raise their children, according to a new filing in the lawsuit brought by a Manchester mother. 

The woman, who is known as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, is responding to the district’s motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the district has no legal obligations when it comes to telling parents about their child’s activities at school regarding sexual and gender identity.

The response, filed in Hillsborough Superior Court-North in Manchester and written by attorney Richard Lehmann, hits back at the district accusing school officials of interfering with Jane Doe’s rights as a mother by forcing staff to keep secrets from parents. 

“Knowledge that the school is actively supporting a child’s decision to transition to a different gender identity when a parent would believe a different response is in the child’s best interests is precisely the kind of information that a parent would be likely to consider in deciding ‘whether’ to send a child to public school or to choose some other option,” Lehmann writes. “However, the policy purposefully and intentionally interferes with the ability of a parent to obtain this information. The defendant argues that it has no duty to advise parents of a student’s transgender expression in schools. This too serves to burden a parent’s right to direct the education and upbringing of children.”

Lehmann also argues that Manchester’s policy, which requires school employees to withhold information from parents and to actively mislead parents at the child’s request, is a violation of New Hampshire’s Constitution’s Part 1, Article 2, which states all people “have certain natural, essential, and inherent rights among which are, the enjoying and defending life and liberty . . . and . . . seeking and obtaining happiness.”

Lehmann notes the right of parents to raise their children has been recognized by the New Hampshire Supreme Court as a constitutional right.

“Our Supreme Court has recognized that: [t]he family and the rights of parents over it are natural, essential, and inherent rights within the meaning of the New Hampshire Constitution. Because of their fundamental importance, great judicial deference has been accorded parental rights,” Lehmann wrote.

Jane Doe learned in 2021 that her child, known in the filing as M.C., was using a different gender identity at school than M.C.’s biological sex, according to court records.

When Jane Doe confronted the school staff, M.C. ‘s teachers agreed that she had the right to step in as M.C. ‘s mother and direct staff to use M.C.’s natural identity and gender.

“I do think that a parent should be giving permission for their child to be called by any other name,” one of M.C.’s teachers wrote to Jane Doe.

However, soon after the teachers agreed to use M.C.’s biological identity, the school principal wrote to tell Jane Doe that the district’s policy makes that impossible.

“Good Morning [Jane Doe]. While I respect and understand your concern, we are held by the District policy as a staff. I have quoted our district policy below, which outlines the fact that we cannot disclose a student’s choice to parents if asked not to. If [M.C.] insists on being called [M.C.’s desired name] as a staff we have to respect that according to the policy or unfortunately we can be held accountable despite parents’ wishes,” the principal wrote.

No one in Manchester’s School Administrative Unit would talk to NH Journal in support of the policy. Mayor Joyce Craig, chair of the school board, also declined to defend it. No one on the school board’s policy committee agreed to speak about it, either.

The district claims in its motion seeking to have the case dismissed that the policy does not interfere with Jane Doe’s rights as a parent because she can use M.C.’s biological sex and birth name in the home. But in school, Jane Does has no right to say how her child is to be treated, according to the district’s motion.

“Whatever the scope of a parent’s rights vis-a-vis their transgender or gender-nonconforming children, they do not include the right to force a school district to act as a conduit for the parent exercise of those rights in this fashion,” the district’s motion states.

Lehmann argues the district’s position is akin to a Jewish family asking that their child receive kosher food or a Hindu family asking that her child be given vegetarian food, only to have the school staff keep secrets and lie to parents about what they are feeding the children.

“But when a school affirmatively acts in ways that hide these kinds of facts from parents, they violate the parent’s rights to direct the upbringing of their children, to become engaged in the child’s development, and to exercise their right to provide guidance,” Lehmann wrote.

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.

 

Manchester Schools to Parents: We Have No Duty to Inform You of Students’ Trans Activity

In legal filings made Wednesday, the Manchester School District (MSD) declared it has no “duty” to inform parents when their children are engaged in transgender behavior or experiencing transgender ideation or dysmorphia. 

The school district made this claim in a court filing responding to a lawsuit brought by a student’s mother over the school system’s transgender policy. MSD insists the mother has no right to know if her child is living a trans identity at school, and it wants her lawsuit dismissed.

“(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,” Manchester’s motion states.

The mother, who is going by Jane Doe in the lawsuit, claims her child started expressing a different gender identity at school from the child’s identity at birth, and that fact was kept secret from the child’s family.

According to Jane Doe’s lawsuit, she found out last fall that her child was using a different pronoun and gender identity at school. The mother spoke with school staff, including the guidance counselor. The mother made it clear she wanted her child to be called by the name and pronouns her child was born with while in school, according to the lawsuit.

Even though the staff she spoke to initially agreed, the mother soon got an email from the school principal stating that due to the district’s policy, it would not be possible. The principal stated the district’s policy requires school staff to keep such matters secret from parents if the child wants them kept secret, according to the lawsuit. Even if the staffers agree to use the child’s biological gender identity when speaking with the mother, they would be obligated to lie and not tell the mother if the child wished to be identified as something else, according to the lawsuit.

According to the district’s motion, the mother has no rights when it comes to the child’s identity at school.

“Whatever the scope of a parent’s rights vis-a-vis their transgender or gender-nonconforming children, they do not include the right to force a school district to act as a conduit for the parent’s exercise of those rights in this fashion,” the motion states.

The district’s motion to dismiss claims that this policy does not interfere with the parent-child relationship, since the mother is still free to have the child identify as their birth gender at home.

Shannon McGinley, executive director at the conservative organization Cornerstone, said school districts should not have the power to override parents and their values when it comes to raising their children.

“Schools are not courts of law and should not have the authority to unilaterally deprive people of recognized legal rights. This is a government entity that is increasingly being given vast and unquestioned power over our lives and the lives of our children,” McGinley said.

Two weeks after Jane Doe’s lawsuit was filed, the Manchester Board of Education tweaked the transgender policy — though not by much. The original policy read: “School personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”

The board took out the phrase “including parents and other school personnel,” and added a line stating, “Nothing herein shall be construed to change the obligation of the school to take action when student safety is concerned.”

The changes did not assure Jane Doe that her rights as a parent would be recognized, and the lawsuit continues in the Hillsborough Superior Court – North in Manchester. McGinley said it was one of the reasons Cornerstone backed the failed Parents’ Bill of Rights in the legislature.

“The strong opposition faced by the Parents’ Bill of Rights this session proved that public schools in New Hampshire have an established practice of withholding information from parents about their minor children’s gender and sexuality,” McGinley said. “The justification for this is that, since some parents are abusive, all parents must be presumed guilty. But that’s not how we operate in any other area of parents’ rights.”

The bill was defeated after Gov. Chris Sununu, Attorney General John Formella, and others expressed concerns about the legality of the proposal.

MSD’s actions put it at the center of the national debate over parental rights. Progressive activists reject the widely-accepted view, going back to British common law, that parents should have the final say in decisions over their children.

“Schools have a long-standing tradition and legal obligation to inform parents of their children’s medical and behavioral issues and to honor their decisions about what’s best for their kids,” wrote Luke Berg for the American Enterprise Institute. “Yet, prompted by a well-organized lobby, many school districts have decided that minor students can change gender identity at school without any parental involvement.”

Berg, a former assistant attorney general at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, says this gets the legal standards all wrong.

As any parent of school-age kids can attest, schools require parental consent for just about everything, even seemingly insignificant matters: sports, field trips, extracurricular activities, alternate education programs, and taking any kind of medication at school,” Luke wrote. “Yet in the past few years, schools nationwide have carved out an exception to this expectation for one major and controversial issue: social gender identity transitions. Unbeknownst to many parents, schools are adopting policies that allow students to change gender identity at school, adopt a new name and pronouns, and even begin using opposite-sex facilities, without parental notice or consent and sometimes in secret from parents.

“This shift is happening under most parents’ radar— until it affects their children, when it’s often too late to fight.”

Democrats and Teachers Want Edelblut Ousted Over ‘Activist’ Complaint

Democrats and the state’s biggest teachers union say Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut needs to be stopped after he called out “activist” teachers who he says undermine New Hampshire family values. 

Edelblut set off a firestorm when he drew attention to classroom materials and teacher assignments he says show there is a problem between teachers and families. Many families in New Hampshire feel their values are being undermined in the classroom, he told NH Journal.

“The actions of some educators, which have become increasingly apparent through social media as a result of the pandemic, are undermining the sacred trust that educators hold. Our education system needs that trust to exist,” he said.

Edelblut called out schools that are teaching woke ideology in New Hampshire classrooms. Edelblut published a 74-page document that shows teachers using materials from critical race theory activist Ibram X. Kendi, an article teaching students how to protest police, one asking students in middle school for their preferred pronouns as part of a math class orientation, and another teaching 4th graders there are multiple genders.

“Some people identify as a gender that is not male or female, some identify as more than one gender, and some people don’t identify as any gender,” states one lesson for 8- and 9-year-olds.

Concerned parents have been contacting Edelblut about the classes that he says are running against the long-held trust the parents have in teachers and schools.

“To be fair, most educators do not engage in such practices,” he said. “When you send children to school you are trusting the teachers not to undermine your values, and educators who do that run the risk of eroding that trust in all teachers.”

The teachers unions and their allies in the New Hampshire Democratic Party reacted by blasting Edelblut, saying he is targeting public education with the goal of undermining the system.

“Our commissioner has turned his clearly visible disdain for public education into a crusade not to remodel our schools, but to close them,” said Megan Tuttle, president of the NEA-NH, the state’s largest teacher’s union. “By continually destabilizing what was once a model for public education in America, he is hoping more and more parents will opt out of New Hampshire public schools and choose the private and religious ones he favors and funds so generously with our tax dollars”

House Minority Leader David Cote (D-Nashua) and Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester released a letter calling for Edelbut to be removed. They accused Edelblut of being more interested in furthering his political career than in educating New Hampshire’s children.

“Frank Edelblut does not put the best interests of New Hampshire children first. His goal is purely to enact an extreme, far-right agenda to further his own personal political ambitions, whatever they may be. He is playing games with the very futures of our children and it is simply unacceptable,” they wrote.

Florida’s Department of Education got headlines last week when it rejected 41 percent of math textbooks because they included lessons allegedly inspired by critical race theory or other controversial educational theories like “social-emotional learning.”

One math problem in a book rejected by Florida begins with the phrase “What? Me? Racist?” In another, a fifth-grade math textbook featured standard math problems with the phrase “How can you understand your feelings?”

“Math is about getting the right answer. It’s not about how you feel about the problem,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said last week.

Edelblut said he does not have the authority to stop schools from using any specific text.

“In New Hampshire, that’s a school board issue,” he said. “What happened in Florida would need to be done by a school board in New Hampshire.”

Instead, Edelblut is focusing on supporting most teachers who stick to teaching students free from ideology.

“We want to make sure the teachers have the training and skills to be effective in the classroom and not be undermined by educators who undermine the value systems of children and hurt parental trust of the system as a whole,” he said.

Tuttle has lashed out at Edelblut since he first published the document, saying she and the other NEA-NH members are happy to be considered activists. 

“If it’s ‘activist’ to believe we all deserve the right to live, learn, work, and thrive no matter our color, immigration status or sexual orientation and gender identities—no exceptions, then every one of our members is an activist teacher,” Tuttle said in a statement directed at Edelblut. “Politicians like you push rules that restrict our freedoms and do your best to try to divide us. You are very mistaken If you believe calling us activists is an insult.”

 

 

 

Local ‘Guys & Dolls’ School Dance Cancelled Over Lack of Gender Inclusion

Luck won’t be a lady for anyone in Hampton Falls after the Lincoln Akerman School PTO canceled the Guys & Dolls dance, an annual father-daughter event, due to complaints it is not gender-inclusive.

Parents in this small Granite State community received a letter from the PTO explaining the Guys & Dolls dance, along with the companion mother-son Ladies & Lads dance, ran afoul of the current climate of gender politics.

“The Lincoln Akerman School PTO has received some concerns regarding the lack of gender inclusivity surrounding the Guys & Dolls and Ladies & Lads events at our school,” The PTO letter states. “These long-standing events at LAS have traditionally been separated by gender, but with the asterisk that anyone is is welcome.”

Organizers decided keeping the name and inviting everyone regardless of gender was not an option.  Opening the dance to the entire school would not work due to COVID-19 concerns. Instead, the PTO opted to cancel both dances. Kellie Bove, the Lincoln Akerman School PTO communications director did not respond to a request for comment.

SAU 21 Superintendent Meredith Nadeau said Wednesday the dance is not an official school function, and that the district had no say in it being canceled.

“It’s not something that the school district or administration was involved in,” she said.

School Board Chair Greg Parish did not respond to requests for comment. 

Hampton Falls Selectboard Chair Lou Gargiulo called the dance cancellation silly. He said the dance was called off after one parent complained.

“I’m appalled,” he said. “It’s another silly thing that is going to impede kids from going to an event with their parents.”

Parents and families who bought tickets to the event will get refunds, according to the PTO’s letter, and there will be a COVID-safe alternative event. 

It’s not just in Hampton Falls. Until recently, the Hampton, N.H. Parent-Teacher Association hosted a Father-Daughter Dance, “but the name was changed … to be more inclusive, some saying the move helped avoid triggering traumatic emotions for girls without fathers,” Seacoastonline.com reported. It became the Daughter’s Choice Dance, but that was soon found to be too offensive and the event was renamed the Family Dance.

“The Rollinsford Grade School’s father-daughter dance was also changed to be a daughter’s choice dance after community members were concerned the traditional name was not inclusive enough,” they reported in 2018.

While Lincoln Akerman canceled the dance voluntarily, activists in other states have been forcing father-daughter dances and other gender-specific events to shut down. The New York City Department of Education’s Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Student Guidelines outlaws the dances because they exclude some students, the New York Post reports.

“Father-daughter dances inherently leave people out. Not just because of transgender status, just life in general,” said Jared Fox, the department’s LGBT community liaison. “These can be really uncomfortable and triggering events.”

Last year, Virginia’s Department of Education under then-Gov. Ralph Northam (D), recommended ending all sex segregation at school events, inclining proms and other school dances. Among the recommendations, Virginia’s department wanted to end:

“Grouping students for class activities, gender-based homecoming or prom courts, limitations on who can attend as ‘couples’ at school dances, and gender-based events such as father-daughter dances.” 

Glenn Younkin, Virginia’s newly-elected Republican governor, won a surprise victory in part by promising to let parents make decisions in public schools again.

According to the New Hampshire ACLU,Lincoln Akerman and SAU21 are not among the approximately 60 schools and school districts in New Hampshire to have adopted a full policy on transgender student equality. 

No Deal Likely in Exeter “Two Genders” Lawsuit

A Superior Court judge has ordered mediation in the lawsuit brought after Exeter High School officials punished a Catholic student for saying there are two genders.

However, Ian Huyett, the attorney for the student and his family, says a settlement is unlikely given Exeter’s current stance, expressed in a recent letter to the school community.

“Given the contents of the letter that (Superintendent) David Ryan sent out on Wednesday, I don’t anticipate that they’ll have any interest in doing that,” Huyett said. 

Ryan sent the letter last week, doubling down on the district’s stated embrace of diversity after Judge David Ruoff issued the scheduling order, which stipulates the two sides attempt to settle the case through an Alternative Dispute Resolution.

“Despite our best intentions to create a safe and welcoming environment for all in our community, we have members in our community who continue to experience feelings of hate and disrespect,” Ryan wrote. “We are a community of acceptance. This means we welcome you with all of your uniqueness, no matter your race, religion/spiritual beliefs, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability/disability, or family structure.”

The student, known in the lawsuit as M.P., claims he was disciplined for expressing his views, informed by his Catholic faith, that there are only two genders. M.P. claims he expressed these views outside of school and off the football field.

Exeter High School and SAU 16 officials struck back saying M.P. was disciplined for being a bully, not for expressing his religious views. The district’s attorney, Michel Eaton claims M.P. is not the victim of religious discrimination. Instead, he was benched for one game by his coach for violating the team’s code of conduct. The benching had nothing to do with the school’s transgender discrimination policies, according to Eaton.

“M.P.’s coach did not decide to bench M.P. based upon M.P.’s opinion that there are only two genders, nor would he. Rather, M.P. was benched for using crude, inappropriate, and disrespectful language while communicating with Student Doe. This behavior was consistent with M.P.’s documented history of bullying and inappropriate behavior, including such behavior on the school bus and such behavior targeted at Student Doe specifically,” Eaton wrote in the district’s response to the lawsuit.

Student Doe, who is not transgendered, is the student with whom M.P. had a reportedly heated conversation about gender and sexuality while on the school bus. This conversation later continued via text messaging, according to court records. Student Doe, in turn, reported the conversation to M.P.’s coach, Eaton wrote.

“M.P.’s coach took what he believed to be an appropriate and limited remedial measure to teach and ensure the respect that is expected of all student athletes,” Eaton wrote.

Huyett claims in the lawsuit that M.P. was punished for expressing his opinion, not for violating any rule.

“M. P. did not harass or demean any student, but simply expressed his views on a contentious cultural issue,” Huyett said in a statement.

Huyett is an attorney with Cornerstone, a conservative Christian organization. While Cornerstone is defending M.P.’s First Amendment rights in this case, the state’s ACLU has been silent. Instead, New Hampshire’s ACLU is part of a federal lawsuit, along with Exeter’s Andres Mejia, against the state over the so-called “banned concepts” law. Mejia is the director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice for the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, and a board member of the Black Lives Matter Seacoast organization.

The anti-discrimination law challenged by the ACLU and Mejia, signed by Gov. Chris Sununu as part of the state budget, prohibits students from 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.”

Exeter High Labels Catholic Student ‘Bully,’ Defends Punishment Over Free Speech

Exeter High School and SAU 16 struck back against a Catholic student suing over his free speech rights, saying he was disciplined for being a bully and not for expressing his religious views. However, they acknowledge in their court filing that the “bullying” in question was expressing his opinion on gender.

The student, known in the lawsuit as M.P., claims he was disciplined for expressing his opinion, informed by his Catholic faith, that there are only two genders. M.P. expressed these views off the school campus and was then suspended from the football team for one game, according to his lawsuit.

The district’s attorney, Michel Eaton, wrote in a response to the lawsuit filed late last week, there is no free speech case here. Eaton also claims M.P. was not suspended by the school, but benched for one game by his coach. The benching had nothing to do with the school’s anti-discrimination policies regarding transgender issues.

“M.P.’s coach did not decide to bench M.P. based upon M.P.’s opinion that there are only two genders, nor would he. Rather, M.P. was benched for using crude, inappropriate, and disrespectful language while communicating with Student Doe. This behavior was consistent with M.P.’s documented history of bullying and inappropriate behavior, including such behavior on the school bus and such behavior targeted at Student Doe specifically,” Eaton wrote.

Student Doe, who is not transgender or non-binary, is the student with whom M.P. had a reportedly heated conversation regarding gender and sexuality while on the school bus. The conversation later continued via text messaging, according to court records. Student Doe, in turn, reported the conversation — which took place outside the classroom and off the football field — to M.P.’s coach, Eaton wrote.

“M.P. ‘s coach took what he believed to be an appropriate and limited remedial measure to teach and ensure the respect that is expected of all student athletes,” Eaton wrote.

According to Eaton’s filing, Student Doe and M.P. have a long-standing antagonistic relationship. Eaton submitted as evidence the football team code of conduct, which M.P. signed, and copies of the text conversation between M.P. and Student Doe. However, both items were sealed by the court and not available to the public. 

Whether or not M.P. engaged in bullying, the district acknowledges in Eaton’s filing that M.P. was disciplined for expressing his views, however crudely, while off-campus. It’s similar to the free-speech case in which a Pennsylvania high school student was disciplined after she posted a profanity-laced message to Snapchat that she recorded at a convenience store.

The U. S. Supreme Court last year ruled 8 to 1 in favor of Brandi Levy, the former cheerleader at Mahanoy Area High School. The high court found the school violated Levy’s First Amendment rights when it reprimanded and suspended her from the junior varsity team because of her off-campus comments about the cheer team.

While the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sided with Levy in her case, the New Hampshire ACLU has been silent in the case of M.P. In the past, protecting an individual’s personal speech against government action would have been a classic ACLU  case. But the organization has become openly partisan, as The New York Times reported in a story headlined “Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis.”

Instead of suing on behalf of an individual’s rights,  New Hampshire’s ACLU is part of a federal lawsuit opposing New Hampshire’s new anti-discrimination law. They want to overturn the law preventing teachers and government employees from teaching 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.”

The ACLU-NH is joined in the lawsuit by Andres Mejia,  director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice for the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, and a board member of the Black Lives Matter Seacoast organization. Some Exeter parents have questioned whether a member of a group that claims all white people, regardless of their behavior, participate in white supremacy can treat students fairly. 

Writing about the Exeter case in the Portsmouth Herald, former political consultant Alicia Preston Xanthopoulos defended the Catholic student’s right to express opinions others — including the school district — don’t like.

“No one has the right not to be offended. I do actually have the right to say something that might offend you,” Xanthopoulos wrote. “That’s precisely why there is the First Amendment. It’s not there to protect popular speech, it is there to protect you from being punished by the government for speech that is not popular.

“Which, horrifyingly, is precisely what occurred here.”