Metro Weekly

New Hampshire House Kills “Parental Rights” Bill Opposed by GOP Governor

LGBTQ advocates objected to provisions that they claimed would force schools to "out" LGBTQ students to their parents.

New Hampshire House of Representatives chamber – Photo: Royalbroil, via Wikimedia.

Last week, the Republican-led New Hampshire House of Representatives narrowly defeated a proposed “parental rights” bill that Gov. Chris Sununu had already threatened to veto.

The proposed bill, which passed on party-lines in the state Senate, but saw some Republican defectors in the House, sought to expand parents’ oversight into the curriculum and activities at public schools, and would have allowed parents to sue schools and teachers over grievances.

Many Republicans championed the bill, which they claimed was prompted by anger from constituents stemming from an alleged lack of communication from teachers, or objections to some of the curriculum content being taught in schools — both of which came under scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many school districts offered virtual learning in place of in-person instruction, especially during the 2020-2021 school year.

In particular, social conservatives rallied around the bill as part of a nationwide effort railing against “woke ideology,” often focusing on how issues of race, racism, sexuality, and gender were being discussed in classrooms, reports the Concord Monitor.

But critics of the bill, including civil rights organizations, mental health advocates, and even Attorney General John Formella, warned that the bill prioritized parents’ desires over the needs of children and could violate state anti-discrimination laws — concerns that led Sununu to vow to veto the bill.

LGBTQ rights advocates specifically balked at provisions that would require schools to effectively “promptly” inform parents about any developments with their child, including any action taken around “gender expression or identity.” They argued that the bill would force counselors, school psychologists, or administrators to “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents, even in cases where the student’s physical health or safety might be endangered by such a disclosure.

“This bill as written creates numerous challenges for kids,” Sununu said in a statement prior to the final vote. “I share the concerns of the Attorney General and as such, will veto the bill if it reaches my desk.”

In the week leading up to the vote, lawmakers were besieged by emails and calls from national and local advocacy groups on both sides of the issue. 

RebuildNH, a right-wing group formed during the pandemic to protest COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, paid for billboards across southern New Hampshire urging people to call their lawmakers to support the bill. The organization has since urged supporters to run against House Republicans who voted against the measure.

“We need more elected officials who understand that defending the rights of parents must be the top priority for New Hampshire right now, particularly following two years of unprecedented state power,” Rep. Melissa Blasek (R-Merrimack), the group’s executive director, wrote in an email to supporters.

But opponents of the bill welcomes news of its failure.

“Children need to feel safe and welcomes in order to reach their highest academic achievement,” Jenn Bisson, the founder of Support Our Schools New Hampshire, said in a statement. “We are so thankful to all the legislators that voted to reject this extreme legislation.”

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