Senate Education Panel Hears Bill Requiring Schools Out LGBTQ+ Students To Parents

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The Senate Education Committee is pictured Thursday on several controversial bills.


CONCORD – Several educators, members of the public, and LGBTQ+ rights advocates testified against SB 341 at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Thursday morning.

It was the committee’s first hearing on several bills that they will vote on some time in the near future.

SB 341, if passed, would require all school district employees to respond “honestly and completely” to parents’ written requests regarding information pertaining to their children within 10 days. Those who expressed opposition to the bill are most concerned that this legislation poses the greatest threat to LGBTQ+ youth who have not yet come out to their parents about their sexuality or gender identity, or fear doing so.

While the bill does not explicitly state that it targets LGBTQ+ youth, much of the testimony against SB 341 was in consideration of the risk it may pose to them. Abigail Kincaid, a recent graduate from Bedford High School, spoke up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community about her concerns regarding the bill.

Kincaid shared her own story of coming out on her own terms. “The implication of this bill means that students are going to be forced to come out to their parents regardless of if their parents are going to be accepting,” Kincaid said at the meeting. “We are going to further alienate LGBTQ students with this bill, and LGBTQ students are already so alienated in schools.”

“It is so hard to come to terms that the world may not always accept you and love you, so why would we make that worse for students in schools?” Kincaid said.

Jordan King, a recent graduate from Milford High School, offered their personal experience and insight as an LGBTQ+ youth who did feel supported in high school after coming out.

“For some students, a parent finding out about their identity can put them in great danger, whether a teacher knows that or not,” King said.

The bill stipulates that if the school employee believes that their response would put the student at risk of physical harm, abuse, or neglect, they are required to file a report with the Department of Health and Human Services. If a school employee violates the terms of the bill, such as not answering the request completely and honestly, within the timeframe, or at all, they would be referred to the school board for termination, according to the bill as written.

“If a student is forcibly outed to their parents, this takes away their ability to explore and understand themselves before taking the often-scary step of telling their parents, especially if their parents would not respond well or put them in danger,” King said.

David Trumble, former Democratic candidate for state rep in Goffstown and former founder and attorney for the NH Mental Health Law Clinic, expressed similar concerns on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth and their mental health when he testified at the meeting.

“Some parents cannot handle knowing that their child is questioning their own sexuality, or that they might be LGBTQ,” Trumble said. “Forcing schools to reveal such information to such parents who will likely reject their children will harm those children’s mental health.”

Chris Erchull, an attorney with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), pointed out there is no carve-out to permit school employees to not disclose information if they feel the information would put the student at risk.

“The question is do parents have the right to demand surveillance and reporting about student gender expression at school,” Erchull said.

“These parents have a constitutionally protected right to instill their values and to teach their children what choices they believe are inappropriate and appropriate,” Erchull continued. “But the question before this committee is not about whether parents have the right to raise their children according to their values, the question is whether parents have the right to commandeer school personnel and to put government employees in the middle of intimate family affairs. That is not the role of teachers, that is not the role of staff in our schools.”

Sen. Tim Lang, R-District 2, the primary sponsor of the bill, defended the bill and countered Erchull’s testimony.

“Do you think allowing a teacher to avoid honesty and to misrepresent is emulating good societal standards?” Lang asked Erchull. Lang emphasized that he believed the bill was about honesty from teachers and the right of parents to get a truthful response from them.

Erchull claimed that the “completely and honestly” standard in the bill was flawed, however.

“There is no way to gauge whether a teacher has ever met that standard,” Erchull said. He emphasized that it would create an “unhealthy surveillance environment” in public schools while rupturing trust between students and teachers.

In addition to the concerns about how this bill may impact LGBTQ+ youth, several educators argued against the bill because of the kind of culture it would foster within schools, the possible threat it poses to educators’ jobs, and how it could damage communication and trust between parents, teachers, and students.

Gail Kinney, a former public school counselor and former school board member and chair, is a current pastor and spoke out against the bill from her experience in education.

“The New Hampshire General Court cannot legislate positive family dynamics,” Kinney said. “Is trust between parent and child so broken that the parent cannot have an open and nonthreatening discussion with their child?”

Sen. Lang questioned Kinney about how to remedy a situation if a school refuses to respond or if they feel brushed off when they approach the school or teacher with verbal communication first. Kinney responded that the bill does not require a verbal communication first before a written request.

“Locally, there are policies in place so you can go to the principal, you can go to the school board and address your concerns, before you would even implement something as unworkable as this,” Kinney said. “How often does that happen in the way that you have described and is legislation this vague and this open-ended the right way to resolve that particular issue? I would say no.”

Barrett Christina, Executive Director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, and Megan Tuttle, president of the National Education Association NH, both testified in opposition to the bill and the implications it would have for educators as it is written.

Christina was specifically concerned about the vagueness of who would refer the school employee for disciplinary action and the provision that allows a parent to appeal the action taken against the employee.

“If the parents have an appeal right to the state board of education, why doesn’t the employee have an appeal right to the Supreme Court or Superior Court based on the decision of seven unelected bureaucrats at the state level who have no idea what’s going with the employment aspect at a local school district?” Christina said.

Christina argued that the mechanics of the bill are “contrary to longstanding statutes, traditions, and local policies.”

Tuttle of NEA-NH expressed that teachers are feeling stressed and pressured from recent legislation in the state and are leaving the profession because of the climate and culture that is arising in schools. While educators welcome discussion and communication with parents, Tuttle said, the bill would intimidate school employees and said the NEA-NH objects to the disciplinary action outlined in the bill.

Sarah Smith, a retired teacher who disclosed she is married to transgender woman, testified against the bill as well. “It will deeply damage the teacher-student relationship and not help the parent-teacher relationship either,” Smith said.

Smith said that teachers offer an open door for personal issues, where she said issues of abuse and neglect may come up that they are required to report.

“Once this law is enacted, students can no longer expect teachers to keep confidential issues they have shared with them,” Smith said. “It seems much less likely personal information will be shared that the student will need personal support for as they fear their parents’ reaction to that knowledge.”

“Many parents would not act in ways that are classic abuse and neglect, but would restrict a student’s life while also resulting in the total devastation of that student,” Smith said. “Children are also not the property of their parents.”

Sen. Lang asked Smith if the relationship of the parent to the teacher takes precedent over the student. Smith responded that it is most important to consider the best interest of the child.

Sen. Donovan Fenton, D-District 10, asked Smith, “As a teacher, have you ever been coached or told to lie or omit information to a parent?”

Smith responded, “I fundamentally believe in honesty, and if anyone asked me to lie, I wouldn’t.”

Deb Howes, President of the American Federation of Teachers in New Hampshire, took particular issue with the implication that teachers are dishonest when she testified at the meeting.

“I don’t understand why there’s this assumption that teachers are always being dishonest,” Howes said. “The whole presupposition of this bill is pretty offensive.”

A handful of people testified in support of the bill, including high school senior and member of the New Hampshire Legislative Youth Advisory Council, James Thibault.

“Frankly many of our school administrators are comfortable lying to our parents,” Thibault said. “This bill would ensure that there’s a working partnership between parents and teachers in that teachers will actually have to disclose information to the parents that is critical to the upbringing of their children.”

Aubrey Freedman, a resident of Bridgewater, also expressed his support of the bill, which he said was “all about honesty.”

“Nobody’s outing anybody unless the parents want to ask the school personnel something, they should be honest,” Freedman said. “I don’t think that’s a big deal.”

“Hiding these things from parents creates a wall between parents and kids,” Freedman said.

Vice Chair of the Committee Sen. Carrie Gendreau, R-District 1, prompted Freedman with a question after his testimony. She asked Freedman if a five- or six-year-old child was asked if he wanted $10,000 or cookies, which would he take. Freedman answered the cookies, but didn’t understand the purpose of the question, and thought it was about transgender youth. Gendreau claimed that it demonstrated children don’t know better, their brains are hardly developed at that age, and left it at that.

One of the last speakers to testify about SB 341 was Courtney Reed of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, punctuating the points of those who oppose the bill.

“SB 341 would endanger vulnerable youth, not only LGBTQ youth,” Reed said. “We know that students learn best when they feel safe to be themselves, yet this bill would drive people away from trusted adults, especially if they’re preparing to have those conversations with their parents.”

“This bill also directly contradicts New Hampshire Department of Education’s ‘One Trusted Adult’ campaign, that allows students to know they have one adult in their life they can share confidential information with,” Reed said.

Following the hours-long testimony of community members, educators, and advocates, the committee discussed three other bills, all of which also had Sen. Tim Lang as their primary sponsor.

The second bill, SB 342, would establish a “new school district building aid funding program using state funds allocated to each district and makes an appropriation therefor,” according to the bill text.

The third bill, SB 442, would “expand the definition of ‘eligible student’ for the education freedom account program to include students whose enrollment transfer request was denied.”


Testimony against the bill emerged from Barrett Christina, Megan Tuttle, and Deb Howes once again.

Christina testified that could potentially allow families not to prove educational hardship for enrollment transfer request, while Tuttle said it could potentially impose a financial burden that redirects funds to private schools rather than public schools.

“Instead of sending taxpayer money to private schools, we should be focusing on traditional public schools where nearly 90% of our children attend, not taking money away from them,” Tuttle said.

Howes echoed Tuttle’s point that the bill would not help “all Granite State students.” Howes said that many requests to transfer schools, which would be bolstered by the bill, do not indicate hardship at the student’s current school but rather are because a student would prefer the options at the other school, such as more advanced class options or athletics.

“It is time for the legislature to put all of its focus on making sure that every one of those schools is just as good in each of those communities across the state, and the tax burden on local property taxpayers is just as affordable in each and every community across the state,” Howes said.

The final bill introduced in the committee was SB 522, which “requires rulemaking by the department of health and human services on childcare early education and establishes an early childhood education account program to provide funds for an education freedom accounts scholarship organization to administer grants to eligible New Hampshire pre-kindergarten children for qualifying expenses.”

Sen. Lang stated that this bill would allow for a low-income universal program for pre-K and would be “earmarked for low-income families,” but there is an additional amendment that he is working on to alter the language further. He also clarified that it is meant to help get more educators into pre-K.

Several people spoke up against the bill, fearing the financial implications it would have and that it lacks accountability in where funding goes. Those against the bill were in favor of expanding current educational infrastructure rather than implementing this new program that SB 522 is proposing.

Sen. Lang issued the following statement today on a series of education reform bills he introduced to the Senate Education Committee:

    “We need to make classrooms more transparent and allow Granite State families to be more involved in the education of their children. They need to know they are being told the truth about their children’s education and what happens in the classroom.

   “We are also working on expanding the successful Education Scholarship Accounts program to provide educational choice in early childhood education. Granite State families want to have more school choice opportunities for their children. We should trust and empower parents to get the best education for every New Hampshire student.”

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