Senate Passes Parental Notification Bill On To House Along Party Lines

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Sen. Sue Prentiss is pictured speaking on a bill in the state Senate Friday.


CONCORD – A bill that would require teachers to fully answer parents’ questions about their child within 10 days with any omission considered a violation of the state teacher code of conduct was passed by the Senate Friday along partisan lines by the Republican majority.

Senate Bill 341 passed on a vote of 13-10 and now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Not present for the vote was Republican Sen. Denise Ricciardi, R-Bedford, but she was present later.

Three senators participated virtually: Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, and Sen. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham.

“Teachers should be honest to parents,” said state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, who said he was dismayed that this has become a political issue. 

Taking a historical context to the bill, Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, said the founders struggled with this as part of life, liberty and property rights.

Children’s rights are protected by the state and do supersede parents’ rights in some cases, he noted, giving the example of children working in the mills of Dover rather than at school.

Whether children in an educational setting have a right to free speech and privacy is at the heart of the bill, Watters said.

“I ask parents, ‘at what age do we recognize that our children have some rights,'” he said.

He said teachers should not have to become surveillance mechanisms.

Watters asked if a parent cannot communicate with a child at home, should they have the force of law to execute that in a school?

He said he would stand with free speech and children’s rights and vote “no.”

Sen. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, asked Lang if this sort of report only arises once a written request is made by the parent.

“That’s right. It is a reactive bill,” Lang said. “Parents deserve the truth.”

Sen. Sue Prentiss, D-Lebanon, said she too was shocked that this has become “a political lightning rod.” 

She said the language of a “full report” from the teacher in the bill is vague and not enforceable.

She also said schools should be a place where students should be allowed to be themselves and “we want to give them that space.”

The measure will not build trust and a healthy inclusive environment, said Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, D-Portsmouth.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said all the bill is asking for is the truth so parents can do their job. 

She said this is much bigger than a child’s sexual identity, as some were focusing on.

“We all know we want our children to talk to us. But everyone in this room has been through adolescence,” she said. “Children are also vulnerable at this time and often taken advantage of.”

A parent’s job is to protect them and help them, but if they don’t know, they can’t help, Carson said.

Lang said this does not apply to support staff at the school and limits it to credentialed teachers.

Perkins Kwoka said no one is saying that parents aren’t important and she referred to them as part of the “three legged stool” involving parents, teachers and students. But she said, “coming out” and acknowledging sexual identity should be the sole choice of the individual and so many people come out last to their parents. She said the bill would sow division and “establish an environment of surveillance in schools.”

Senate President Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said what is missing is the fact that the responsibility parents have, legally and morally, is to bring their children up and prepare them for the life they will have when they reach adulthood. 

“Responsibility and rights. That is what we are debating. If we can’t pass this bill, we are undermining parental responsibility,” he said.

“There are competing rights,” he said, “But parents also have responsibilities.”

The Department of Education has said the bill is vague, said Prentiss.

Watters said if the bill was related to violations of law that would be one thing, but the bill “covers everything,” and he thinks that violates the rights of a child.

Bradley said the critical question is what are the responsibilities of parents to the child and that to raising them?

“And responsibilities without information…parents are not able to fulfill their responsibilities to their kids,” Bradley said.

Paula Tracy is’s senior writer with 30 years of reporting experience.

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