Pelham - Windham News | January 13, 2012 - 5
House Overrides Governor’s Veto: Allows Parent’s Objections
by Diane Chubb On January 4, the NH House of Representatives
voted to override Governor Lynch’s veto of HB 542. The bill amends NH RSA to include the
following new paragraph: IX-c. Require school districts to adopt a
policy allowing an exception to specific course material based on a parent’s or legal guardian’s determination that the material is objectionable. Such policy shall include a provision requiring the parent or legal guardian to notify the school principal or designee in writing of the specific material to which they object and a provision requiring an alternative agreed upon by the school district and the parent, at the parent’s expense, sufficient to enable the child to meet state requirements for education in the particular subject area. The name of the parent or legal guardian and any specific reasons disclosed to school officials for the objection to the material shall not be public information and shall be excluded from access under RSA 91-A. The bill was sponsored by Republican J.R. Hoell of Merrimack.
According to Hoell, “The bill was inspired by a controversy at Bedford High School, where the parents of a student objected to the book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America. The parents, Dennis and Aimee Taylor, complained about language in the book they said was anti-Christian and anti-capitalist. The dispute drew national attention, and the book was removed last January following a review by teachers and administrators, a move that also sparked criticism.” The bill originally included provisions to end compulsory attendance. These were removed by other legislators, but Hoell said he would work to address the compulsory attendance issue separately. On March 9, 2011, the bill passed through the House Education Committee by a vote of 11-6. Voting in favor of the motion were Reps. Balboni, Ingbretson, Kolodziej, Brosseau, Greemore, Hill, Hoell, Jones, Rago, Baldasaro, and Boehm. Boehm is a member of the District 27 delegation, which includes Pelham. The bill later passed the House and Senate earlier in 2011.
A blog called NH Parents First favored the passage of the bill, citing that it recognizes private school parents as well as home schooling parents for their conscientious opposition to public school instruction. “Parents, not the government, know what is best for their children. Parents should have the right to determine what is best for their children. This bill will improve education in New Hampshire by empowering parents to do what they know is best for their children,” they state. The bill was vetoed by Governor Lynch on July 13, 2011. It was the second time it had been vetoed by Lynch. The biggest complaint against the bill was that it did not attempt to define “objectionable,” giving parents complete discretion. In a written message regarding his veto of the
bill, Governor Lynch stated, “Current law already allows for parents to remove their children from classrooms for particular lessons on health or sex education. Given the strong moral and religious issues inherent in those subjects, that is appropriate. But this legislation goes far beyond that. HB 542 would allow a parent to determine any course material is ‘objectionable’ and require school districts to work with parents to develop an alternative. This legislation in essence gives every individual parent of every student in a classroom a veto over every single lesson plan developed by a teacher.” Lynch goes on to give an example, saying that under this bill, parents could object to a teacher’s plan to teach the history of France, the history of the civil or women’s rights movements, or how a teacher instructs the basics of algebra.
“Even though the law requires the parents to
pay the cost of alternative, the school district will still have to bear the burden of helping develop and approve the alternative.” “Just as important, this legislation will fundamentally damage educational quality. Much of the genesis behind this legislation is objections to certain books that have been used in lessons. This is a perennial debate, and teachers and schools have a responsibility to ensure they are using age-appropriate, school-appropriate materials in their classrooms.” “Because it is unclear what educational material or programs would be objectionable and the quality of education in the classroom could be impacted, I am vetoing this bill.” Under NH RSA 186, school districts are already required to have a policy to provide an exception to a particular unit of health or sex education based on religious objections.
NH RSA 186:11 IX-b states, “Health and Sex Education. Require school districts to adopt a policy allowing an exception to a particular unit of health or sex education instruction based on religious objections. Such policy shall include a provision for alternative learning sufficient to enable the child to meet state requirements for health education.” A group known as “Parents First” claims HB 542, as amended, adds nothing new to statute that isn’t already in effect via court decisions or current law. “The first section recognizes a parent’s inalienable rights of conscience. The second section is taken directly from the current statute on the regulation of private schools, RSA 186:11.” Local State Representative Shaun Doherty
voted for the bill. “It has been a priority of the legislature this past year to ensure parents have a say in their children’s education and that they are able to object to materials they deem offensive or objectionable,” he explained. “I think parents should have a say in their children’s education and take an active role, which is why I voted in favor of passing the bill.” But even a conservative-leaning local paper objected to the proposed bill. “Though [the bill] sounds appealing at first blush, it is so broad that it would make public education essentially an a la carte menu,” stated the editorial board in July. “This bill put the burden on each public school to create a curriculum catered to each family’s individual tastes. Schools would have to provide alternatives to any instruction a family opposed, and a family could oppose anything for any reason. That is neither workable, nor sensible.”
State Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley called the bill “reckless and irresponsible.” A lifelong educator and former public school teacher found the outcome of this vote
Pelham School Budget - continued from front page
The exact amount is yet to be determined, but will be finalized by the deadline to submit the warrants. Chair Rob Hardy stated, “Budgeting for special education expenses is extremely difficult because you can’t predict how many students will need the services and to what degree.” “This is the very reason we were going to ask the voters to let up open a capital reserve fund as a safe guard against unexpected Special education expenses. The Budget Committee did not agree,” he added. “We have been asked to provide a tight budget and we have done so, but these services are mandated and must be provided. Hopefully, the need will now be evident and we will get the Budget Committee’s support for a capital reserve fund warrant article.”
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horrifying. “I was present at a sub- committee meeting on this bill. The discussion did not center around controversial topics in subjects such as sex ed, but rather on the method of teaching elementary mathematics,” she said. “The subcommittee members specifically mentioned Everyday Math. They did not like Everyday Math because parents didn’t understand it.” She questioned how legislators would have a teacher run her classroom. “I began envisioning what my second grade math class might have been like under this law. An hour a day to teach math, 20 kids. Using the district approved math program with 10 of them, then being forced to teach by a different method and with different materials, with a different scope and sequence, three or four or five or more different lessons to different kids. Do it all over again with reading and language arts, then science, then social studies ... you get the picture.”
continued to page 6 - House Overrides Veto
Outdoors Charlie Chalk with
Apprentice Hunting Licenses Now Available
Have you ever had a friend who you know would enjoy hunting if they only had a chance to try it? Or perhaps you’re a non-hunter who has always wanted to go along on a hunt to see what it’s all about. Now you can have your chance. A new law took effect January 1, 2012, that allows people who are interested in trying hunting or bowhunting an opportunity to do so under the guidance of an experienced hunter without having to take a Hunter Education course first. It’s called the New Hampshire Apprentice Hunting License. Here’s how it works: The licensed apprentice hunter is allowed to hunt only when accompanied by a properly licensed hunter who is 18 years of age or older. “Accompanied” means maintaining actual physical direction and control - keeping the apprentice within sight and hearing at all times (without use of electronic devices). “The Apprentice Hunting License is an exciting new opportunity for sharing the hunting experience,” said Steve Weber, Chief of the NH Fish and Game Wildlife Division. “Like our successful youth hunting program, in which youngsters go afield under the supervision of an adult mentor, this program is a great way to provide a positive first-time experience for older new hunters who never had the chance to go hunting as a youth.”
Charlie Chalk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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