By KATHY McCORMACK, Associated Press
CONCORD, NH (AP) – A New Hampshire teachers’ union, several educators and parents sued top education, human rights and law enforcement officials on Monday over a law state that limits discussion of systemic racism and other topics, claiming it restricts speech, limits the free exchange of ideas, and hurts students.
The âProhibition of Teaching Discriminationâ law, passed in June, prohibits teaching children that they are inferior, racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, gender or other characteristics.
An earlier version of the legislation echoed a now repealed Trump administration ordinance that sought to ban discussion of “divisive concepts” in schools. The law that was eventually passed teaches about the âhistorical existenceâ of ideas and emphasizes strengthening anti-discrimination laws.
But it also allows for disciplinary action against teachers who break the law.
The lawsuit, which calls for an execution ban and a jury trial, was filed in federal court by AFT-New Hampshire, which represents 3,400 public school teachers and related staff; three secondary school teachers; and two parents.
They sued New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Human Rights Commission Chairman Christian Kim, and New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. The Education Ministry and the Human Rights Commission said they were not commenting on pending litigation. A senior deputy attorney general said the office would “review the case and defend the law.”
AFT-New Hampshire President Deb Howes said teachers were working in fear of being “targeted without evidence by people with a political agenda.”
âEducators are terrified of losing their teaching license just for trying to teach,â Howes said.
She said one of the reasons the lawsuit was brought was in response to an offer by a Conservative group to pay $ 500 to the first person who “catches” a law-breaking teacher after the ministry’s ministry. Education has created a website to collect complaints against teachers. The conservative organization asked its supporters in a tweet to refer to online donations as “CRT Bounty’s,” referring to critical race theory.
Republican Governor Chris Sununu denounced the tweet.
AFT-New Hampshire believes the state is one of eight Republican-led states that have passed laws to censor discussions of race and gender in classrooms, motivated by concerns about the critical theory of race.
The lawsuit says the law is “both unconstitutionally vague in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, cools the discourse of teachers in violation of the First Amendment, and conflicts with and compels abbreviation of the Constitution and laws. of New Hampshire, thus creating even more vagueness, fear and uncertainty as to what New Hampshire teachers can teach and, as a result, hurts New Hampshire students. “
The lawsuit said the Human Rights Commission and the attorney general’s office have issued guidelines to clarify ambiguous language, but even these agencies agree the law is confusing.
Ryan Richman, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who teaches high school world history in Plaistow, said he asks his students to discuss current events and how they relate to the past.
âNine times out of 10 they want to discuss stories about oppression and how they saw or experienced it – the Rohingya genocide, the Uyghur genocide, the Black Lives Matter movement. I shouldn’t lose my license to honestly discuss current events in my classroom, âRichman said in a statement.
He also asked how he and his students could discuss the Nazi philosophy that the Aryan race was superior to all others, and the history of human slavery in the southern United States and its impact on the African Americans.
Republican State Senator Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro said the law prohibits teaching students that they are “inherently superior or inferior to persons of any other age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, family status, mental or physical disability, religion or national origin.
âIt is clear that any education that teaches students that they are inferior or superior because of these characteristics is discrimination and it is terribly disappointing that this lawsuit has even been filed,â he said in a statement. communicated.
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