New Hampshire faces lawsuit over ‘divisive concepts’ law
A teachers union has filed a federal lawsuit over New Hampshire’s ban on teaching “divisive concepts” about race, culture and ethnicity.
The New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers filed the litigation on behalf of several parents and teachers, asking a U.S. District Court judge to block the new law, which prohibits teaching about systemic racism and sexism in public schools and state-funded programs.
In the lawsuit, the union’s lawyers argue that that statute is “unconstitutionally vague” making it impossible for educators to teach subjects dealing with race and ethnicity to students.
“Today, we are taking a stand against a law that brings political partisanship into the classroom and chokes off learning in a way that is reminiscent of book burning,” Deb Howes, the union’s president, told reporters in a briefing. “It puts teachers at the center of an impossible conflict, all while they’re trying just to educate their students.”
Howes said the provision of the law that encourages private citizens to report teachers “keeps her up at night.” She said a group called Moms for Liberty offered a $500 “bounty” for parents who turned in teachers who violate the new law, while some teachers have been targeted on social media.
“This law has created a profound fear among teachers who are not violating any New Hampshire law who fear they may be targeted without evidence by people who have a political agenda,” Howe told reporters. “This is something I never thought would happen in America.”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called the law “chilling and untenable” and vowed that it will be overturned by the courts.
“Either teachers attempt to follow a law so defectively vague and broad that they can’t fulfill their instructional duties to adequately educate their students, or they choose to teach as they have and as the state law has long required, and risk career-ending repercussions,” Weingarten said during Monday’s briefing.
The new law was tucked into a two-year state budget signed in June by Gov. Chris Sununu.
Sununu’s decision not to veto the provision prompted at least 10 members of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion to resign in protest.
Supporters of the law argue that it will strengthen the state’s anti-discrimination laws and improve race relations.
“This is consistent with making sure that we do not train, do not instruct, do not teach our kids that they’re somehow inferior or superior, that they’re inherently racist, sexist or oppressive by virtue of the characteristics they’re born with,” Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said in remarks supporting the bill.
But the move was strongly opposed by the Legislature’s Democratic minority, which tried unsuccessfully to block the provision from being added to the final spending package.
The “divisive concepts” provision mirrors an executive order issued last year by then-Republican President Donald Trump.
That order was rescinded by President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
This article was originally posted on New Hampshire faces lawsuit over ‘divisive concepts’ law