Bill Expanding Parental Rights is Praised and Damned

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Rep. Kristine Perez, R-Londonderry, speaks in favor of her bill to broaden the topics needing parental notification and requiring teachers to answer parents' questions about their child's sexualtiy Tuesday before the Senate Education Committee.


CONCORD — A bill to broaden parental rights over school curriculum and to require teachers to answer parents’ questions had mixed reviews at a public hearing Tuesday.

House Bill 1312, which contains some of the elements of the parental rights bill killed last year and prohibited from returning for the remainder of the session, passed the House by one vote.

Tuesday before the Senate Education Committee supporters said it is needed because current law is not broad enough to cover topics parents should be able to decide their child will not participate in.

And they said teachers and school staff should not lie to parents nor encourage students to lie to parents about their sexuality.

“Any policy that keeps answers from parents is destructive,” said Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro. “Just tell parents the truth when they ask.”

But opponents said the bill would be harmful particularly to the LGBTQIA community and assumes educators would be dishonest with parents when that is not true.

And they said the bill is way too broad as it would include literature and historical figures in the two-week notification requirement and too vague allowing teachers to be targeted.

“I have never heard of a New Hampshire teacher lying to a parent or encouraging a student to lie to a parent.” said Chris Erchull of Gay Legal Advocates and Defenders. “There are many reasons open and honest communication is necessary.”

The bill adds the terms “sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression” to the statute requiring parents be given two-week notification if human sexuality or human sexual education will be taught.

In another section of the bill, school districts would be prohibited from adopting policies barring school district personnel from answering parents’ questions about their students’ mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, sexuality, or a change in related services, or policies that would encourage a student to withhold information from a parent.

Districts would be prohibited from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification of decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, or to withhold information from a parent.

The bill contains an exception if disclosure could result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

Representatives of the state’s two largest teachers unions said the exception would not be enough to protect an educator.

The carve out is not adequate, said Brian Hawkins, National Education Association — NH lobbyist. Teachers would be concerned about how much they could say in a response to a student’s question, or how to narrowly tailor an answer, he said.

The carve out is not adequate protection to support robust classroom discussions, he said, and the language is too vague considering the possibility for disciplinary action if you run afoul of the law, Hawkins said.

“As we have stated at numerous hearings on bills like this one, parents and educators have been working well together for a long time in New Hampshire,” Hawkins told the committee. “We should be passing bills to further support this relationship, not fracture it with confusing and intimidating legislation such as the one before this committee today.”

Deb Howes, president of the American Federation of Teachers NH, said HB 1312 is another bill that would prevent students from receiving a robust academic education “in our schools, and they have a right to a robust academic experience.”

She said the bill is not necessary as there are currently ways for parents to opt their child out if they object.

“Don’t put teachers in the middle of this,” she said. “Their job is to teach.”
The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Kristine Perez, R-Londonderry, said the bill comes at the request of a constituent who was concerned the notification requirement only applied to sex education when there are other sensitive topics that are discussed.

“Parents want to know what their child is being taught,” she said, “they want to be the first, not the last to know when there are changes to their child’s mental, emotional or physical health.”
Stephen Scaer of Nashua supported the bill. “This bill will help parents protect their children from being indoctrinated in transgenderism and exploited by the medical industry,” he said. 

Parents need honest answers to protect their children from becoming lifelong medical patients, Scaer said.

Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union — NH, said the bill appears to target and stigmatize LGBTQIA kids.

Bissonnette said the language added to the notification requirement is so broad it would be impossible to implement.

He said everyone has a sexual identity and sexual orientation including heterosexuals.

The term would apply to material in history class on the Stonewall Uprising or marriage equality or even Romeo and Juliette.

Jonah Sutton-Morse of Canterbury called the bill disgusting and heartbreaking in the way it will affect his transgender, binary child.

Parents may want to opt their child out of his child’s classroom if sexual identity is a topic as they would require advance notice.

“I am trying to find the words to describe how disgusting and heartbreaking it is to read that,” Sutton-Morse told the committee. “To talk about my kid needs advance notice.”

The committee did not make an immediate recommendation on the bill.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

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