By: Annmarie Timmons New Hampshire Bulletin
Photo: Dave Cummings
Public school educators will not be violating the state’s new “divisive concepts” law if their lessons on slavery, the civil rights movement, and the treatment of marginalized people leave some students feeling “uncomfortable,” according to guidance issued Wednesday evening by the state Attorney General’s Office.
“It is important to note that education related to racism, sexism, and other practices or beliefs that have harmed or continue to harm certain identified groups may make students, faculty, or parents uncomfortable,” the guidance said. “These lessons may encourage or prompt students to reflect upon whether and how racism, sexism, or other practices have or have not affected their lives. Even discussion of historical practices and their lingering impact upon different identified groups can cause this discomfort.”
The state issued separate guidance Wednesday for public employers.
The new law, passed as part of the state budget, prohibits schools from teaching that one group of people is inherently racist, superior, or inferior to people of another group. Teachers across the state have voiced uncertainty and fear about what topics and discussions are off limits.
The three-page Q-and-A guide written for educators clarifies how complaints will be handled and whom the new law covers. But it is unlikely to settle the debate over what can and cannot be taught because it speaks broadly and not specifically.
The law, according to the guidance, does not prohibit the teaching of historical subjects nor the discussion of current events like “the Black Lives Matter movement, efforts to promote equality and inclusion, or other contemporary events that impact certain identified groups.”
And educators can still teach “the historical existence of ideas and subjects identified in the new law,” including discrimination based on race, sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religion.
But the Attorney General’s Office did not say how or whether implicit bias – which is at the center of many cases of discrimination – can be included in discussions.
The law pertains to classroom teaching, extracurricular activities, and the training of staff and volunteers for both K-12 and public colleges and universities. Parents who object to specific coursework or discussions can exempt their students from participating.
A student or parent who believes an educator has violated the new law can file a complaint with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights, the Attorney General’s Office, or file a lawsuit in superior court. An educator who violates the law may face disciplinary action by the State Board of Education.
The guidance does not say how claims will be investigated.
“We are happy to be able to release this much-anticipated guidance,” Department of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said Wednesday. “Our goal is to provide clarity around the law and (we) will continue to work with districts to help support them in the implementation.”
A new GSNC reporting initiative explores education inequity in the Granite State.
The State We're In is produced in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative which is funded in part by the Solutions Journalism Network and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Production assistance is provided by the students and staff of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce Unversity in Rindge, NH.
The impact of the proposed new vaccine mandates on New Hampshire businesses.
They are the future of New Hampshire.
NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut answers back to school questions.
A new project by the NH Bar News and the Granite State News Collaborative.
What legal assistance is available to New Hampshire residents?
The Biden Administration has reinstated the CDCâ€™s eviction moratorium through early Octobe
COVID-19 cases are rising again in New Hampshire.
NH's child care industry is struggling.
Jayme Hines, president of the NH Association for the Education of Young Children.
GSNC Reporter Rick Green reports on the issues facing families and providers.
New Hampshireâ€™s new budget has been signed and in effect for nearly a month.
We hear from Gov. Sununu on whatâ€™s next and GSNC Reporter Jenny Whidden on reaction.
A group of parents in Manchester have created an all-volunteer tutoring network.
Legislation, politics and some long overdue recognition.
NH Gives, the 24-hour online nonprofit fundraising event is set for June 8 and 9, 2021.
Student reporters look at diversity on New Hampshire College campuses.
Housing prices are on the rise again in the Granite State.
New Hampshire is the second oldest state in the nation.
May 3rd marked the state mandated return to full in-person operations for schools.
New guidance on masking up in New Hampshire.
Weâ€™re halfway through the New Hampshire Legislative session.
A new multi year project exploring race and equity in New Hampshire.
As of April 1st, anyone over 16 in New Hampshire is eligible to sign up for the vaccine.
How do you measure a communityâ€™s civic health?
Sunshine Week, legislation, transparency in journalism and the publicâ€™s right to know.
Itâ€™s been one year since the Covid-19 pandemic changed life as we know it.
As we mark a year since the Covid-19 pandemic changed life as we know it.
To be food insecure means to struggle to meet the basic needs of putting food on the table
What we all need to know about the budget process on the local and state level.
Moving into 2021, schools are easing towards reopening, but many questions remain.
The COVID-19 vaccination rollout is in full swing across the Granite State.
New Hampshire's legislature is back in session.
Where do we go from here?
Governor Chris Sununu who talks about leadership, the pandemic and more.
Though 2020 is behind us, the deadly virus that plagued us throughout the year.
"˜Tis the season for feeling happy and sad for so many. In this must-watch episode of The State We're In, we learn what people can do to help themselves and others to cope this holiday season.
We're in what typically is the season of giving and an important one for nonprofits.
Projected spikes in coronavirus cases and the possibility of another shutdown are looming.
However you make contact, the topic of politics is often front and center.
The economic downturn and unemployment is deepening the crisis.
Districts across the state are wrestling with the rise in COVID-19 cases.
The historic 2020 election has been a nail-biter.
Director of Research and Analysis at Citizens Count, shares election resources.
One of the keys to mitigating spread is contact tracing.
New Hampshire Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlon answers voters' FAQ.
Many businesses have been hit hard during the pandemic.
With the flu season quickly approaching many health officials warn that Covid-19 mixed with flu could leave the public and providers dealing with a "twindemic" of sorts. Freelance reporter Adam Urquhart and Dr. Elizabeth Daly, Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services discuss how health officials are preparing for the upcoming fl
Food Insecurity is a growing concern in the Granite State.