House Fails to Repeal the Divisive Concepts Law

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Rep. David Paige, D-Conway, speaks in favor of House Bill 1311, or the Freedom to Read bill, before the House on Thursday. 


CONCORD — The House failed to repeal the state’s divisive concepts law, but approved a bill that would establish a process to address parents’ concerns about materials in school libraries.

The House also passed a bill requiring the university and community college systems to protect the free speech and freedom to associate for all organizations on campuses and to provide funding for those organizations.

Divisive Concepts

House Bill 1162 would repeal the state’s law that prohibits teaching that any group is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, or that would indicate any group is inferior, or superior to any other.

The law was included in the biennial budget passed by the legislature in 2021 and is currently being litigated in the federal court system.

Rep. Alicia Lekas, R-Hudson, said the law is working because she no longer hears from friends that their child was made to feel they are racists or sexists.

But she said a new campaign has begun that is just as divisive to make blacks feel like they need their white protectors to allow them to move forward.

After the law was passed the Department of Education placed a form on its website for parents to report possible violations of the law and the Moms for Liberty offered a bounty on the first teacher charged under the new law.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Peter Petrigno, D-Milford, called the law insulting to teachers and one of the reasons teachers are leaving the profession due to the politicalization of education.

He said teachers need to be able to teach about the Nazis of Germany and the parallels to the Nazis today, and the Klu Klux Klan and today’s white supremacists. 

“Teachers are not being allowed to connect the dots,” Petrigno said. “New Hampshire is better than this. We are better than this.”
The bill was indefinitely postponed on a 192-183 vote, which means the subject cannot be brought up again this session.

Freedom to Read

The House defeated an attempt to indefinitely postpone House Bill 1311, which has the state Board of Education require every school district to have a policy to determine if material parents object to in school libraries should be removed.

The bill would prohibit removal of books only because of race, sexual orientation, religion or political viewpoint, and leaves the decision up to the local school board.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. David Paige, D-Conway, said the bill attempts to balance the rights of parents, local control and due process rights.

He said the bill seeks to remove censorship in the marketplace of ideas, while opening up the world to students through literature.

“This is a  bipartisan, common sense bill,” Paige said, “with a balanced approach to uphold all of these shared goals.”
But opponents said the bill would cement obscene material into school libraries.

Rep. Arlene Quaratiello, R-Atkinson, argued the bill would make it impossible to remove material parents object to that is educationally unsuitable or pervasively vulgar from school libraries.

She used a book on suicide methods for a safe and peaceful death as an example of a “very misguided public school librarian’s” selection, that should be off limits for kids.

The House voted down the attempt to kill the bill for the rest of the session, on a 190-185 vote before approving the bill 194-180. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Free Speech

The House approved House Bill 1305, which is similar to a bill that was tabled last session.

Supporters of the bill said while the university and community college systems receive generally high marks for the policies they established on free speech and organizations, there are certain groups that have been targeted, particularly conservative and religious, that are not treated the same as other groups.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Daniel Popovici-Muller, R-Windham, said free speech and free association are constitutional rights no matter how harmful people believe it is.

Many of the major rights people have today were generated by very unpopular speech years ago, he said. “All we are asking is the same treatment for safe spaces and the minimal student activities fees (other organizations receive,) he said.

You are not legally required to date anybody who asks you out, he said.

Rep. Valerie McDonnell, R-Salem, said the organizations that host events lose their right to hold other events because of hecklers and that is unfair and unAmerican.

She said current policy will leave the higher education systems subject to very expensive lawsuits. “Free speech zones should not be in the back corner of a parking lot,” she said.

But Rep. David Luneau, D-Hopkinton, said the bill is not needed and unnecessarily overreaches far beyond freedom of speech and instead requires taxpayer money to recognize student organizations that discriminate based on race, gender identification, religion and political ideology.

Under the bill, the university would be required to fund hate groups and would fuel a violent environment on college campuses, Luneau said.

The bill passed on a 206-169 vote and now goes to the Senate.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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