Bills Targeting School Library Books and Gender Definitions for School Sports Opposed

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Nancy Biederman is pictured testifying Tuesday before the Senate Education Committee.


CONCORD – A bill defining the biological sex of students in school athletics and one which relates to setting up an appeal process for school libraries, books seen by some parents as harmful to minors, were heard in the Senate Education Committee with testimony overwhelmingly opposed to both measures.

Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, said several constituents asked him to sponsor Senate Bill 523 which seeks to regulate and rate school library books and set up an appeal process from the principal to the local school board to the state Board of Education.

Avard also sponsored Senate Bill 357 because of what he calls the unfair physical advantage of boys over girls in school sports where the biological sex of the individual is in question.

He said his measure would set parameters and work “in harmony” to assure that girls’ sports are just that.

“Parents are crying out for this,” Avard said of SB 523, saying parents have no recourse other than to take their kids out of schools and this would set up an appeal process which would allow the parents a channel to challenge what is available to read at school.

Opponents of the bills said there are already measures in place to protect the rights of all and that the intent of the bills was to isolate and target children who are already vulnerable and may be unconstitutional.

Particularly, some said, the bills target members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In the past, the House has rejected similar bills aimed at LGBTQ+ rights.

Some who testified also argued that the bill on books was “copycat language” and exactly the same as far right legislation being considered in other states. 

Some noted bills now in the House, HB 1419 and HB 1311 are better vehicles which are more targeted to school media.

Only one person testified in support of the bills in both cases, Nancy Biederman, a teacher with a master’s degree, who said trans girls are not women. “I don’t care what drugs you take” to make it otherwise. She asked about the mental health of girls who are denied a spot on a team.

Biederman suggested SB 523 be amended to allow any taxpayer, not just parents, to challenge books in a school library. She said to show obscene materials in an educational setting was “child abuse.”

But others suggested that to take that away, rather than allowing parents to choose, was denying other people’s rights. 

Testifying was Iris Turmelle, an eighth grader, who said the purpose of the bill was to prevent her from using the girls’ bathroom even though “I am legally a female.”

Her mother, who also testified in opposition to both bills, said her daughter is a voracious reader who needs to be able to see people who identify as Iris does in books she reads.

State Rep. David Paige, D-Conway, said he supports a clear process for complaints but said alternative bills in the House do a better job to support a format. And he argued that an aspect to the book bill where there would need to be a vendor rating system is unconstitutional violation of free speech. He also added that setting the system up to ultimately decide at the state Board of Education level rather than at the community takes the democratically elected school board out of the decision and into the appointed state level decision.

Pressed by state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, about the physiological differences in the two sexes, Jennifer Smith, a retired doctor who is trans, said there are physical differences between men and women but levels of testosterone vary in both genders.

The question of defining who is a girl or a boy should not be the burden of the schools, said others, arguing that the measure is unenforceable unless the intent is to take a child out of class and have them undress and take various tests.

“Do we really need to put that burden on the schools?” Smith asked.

Officials representing the Kent Street Coalition, New Futures, the ACLU of New Hampshire, NAMI-NH, GLAD, NEA-NH, 603 Equality and the American Federation of Teachers of NH all testified in opposition to the two bills, in addition to individuals.

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