Webinar Briefing on HB 1431’s Dangerous Impacts for LGBTQ+ Youth – Wednesday, May 11th at 3:00 PM in Response to Committee of Conference Announcement

HB 1431, New Hampshire’s version of a “Don’t Say Gay” ‘parental rights’ bill, creates unsafe learning environments for students, risks their mental health, and undermines the state’s obligation to provide an adequate and inclusive education for all New Hampshire students

CONCORD, NH – Today, the NH State House announced it non-concurred with the NH Senate and requested a committee of conference on HB 1431, a so-called ‘parental bill of rights’ that removes community protections for children. The bill is strongly opposed by advocates for public education, child welfare, and LGBTQ rights; all raised serious concerns during the legislative process that the bill will put children at risk and limit the opportunity for students to reach out to trusted adults at school if they are in a vulnerable or dangerous situation.

The LGBTQ community is especially concerned about HB 1431 as the bill would require mandatory, immediate disclosure to parents about student club and extracurricular activities, school counselor visits, and changes in gender identity and expression at school. This will cause harm to LGBTQ students and undermine school efforts to create an affirming learning environment for all students.

Advocates will hold a virtual briefing today on HB 1431’s dangerous impacts for LGBTQ+ youth. The live webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, May 11 at 3:00 PM and is available upon request post-briefing.

WHAT:          Briefing on HB 1431’s Dangerous Impacts for LGBTQ+ Youth

WHEN:           Wednesday, May 11 at 3:00 PM; available upon request post-briefing

WHERE:         Register for virtual briefing here

WHO:             Panelists Chris Erchull, Staff Attorney, GLAD; Jessica Goff, Coordinator of Community Programming and Engagement, Seacoast Outright; and Linds Jakows, Co-Director, TransAction NH; Moderated by Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director, Granite State Progress

Background: HB 1431 would remove community protections for children. It gives a parent the final word on their child’s health, education, and welfare – even if it meant the child was put at risk or danger. For LGBTQ+ youth, this includes requiring mandatory, immediate disclosure to parents about changes in gender identity and expression at school – causing harm to LGBTQ+ students and undermining school efforts to create affirming, inclusive learning environments.

Every child deserves a safe, healthy, and affirming home environment, but when that is not possible – or when a child is not yet ready to have a conversation with their family about their identity – schools should not be put in the place of outing that student and potentially putting the child at risk. More than 50% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered suicide, and a key factor in mental health and homelessness rates among LGBTQ+ youth is related to the lack of family acceptance. We need to send a strong message to LGBTQ+ youth that they belong and are protected in New Hampshire.

LGBTQ, Child Welfare, and Public Education Advocate Statements on Senate Passage of HB 1431, New Hampshire’s Version of a “Don’t Say Gay” ‘Parental Rights’ Bill

HB 1431 will create unsafe learning environments for students, risk their mental health, and undermine the state’s obligation to provide an adequate and inclusive education for all students

CONCORD, NH – Today, the NH Senate passed HB 1431, a so-called ‘parental bill of rights’ that removes community protections for children. The bill is strongly opposed by advocates for public education, child welfare, and LGBTQ rights; all raised serious concerns during the legislative process that the bill will put children at risk and limit the opportunity for students to reach out to trusted adults at school if they are in a vulnerable or dangerous situation.

The LGBTQ community is especially concerned about HB 1431 as the bill would require mandatory, immediate disclosure to parents about student club and extracurricular activities, school counselor visits, and changes in gender identity and expression at school. This will cause harm to LGBTQ students and undermine school efforts to create an affirming learning environment for all students.

Community leaders from across the state offer the following statements: 

Linds Jakows, TransActionNH: “No LGBTQ student should be deprived of the safety and affirmation a public school can provide. Everyone who supports LGBTQ students must contact Governor Sununu to veto this dangerous bill.”

Emma Sevigny, Children’s Behavioral Health Policy Coordinator, New Futures: “HB 1431 undermines the important work our state lawmakers, community agencies, and state officials have put toward building a comprehensive System of Care for children with behavioral health needs, and could put our children at risk. This legislation would erect barriers, preventing authorities from identifying children and families in need of intervention and resources to prevent abuse and neglect. Further, it could prevent many students from discussing and exploring important issues, including gender and sexual identities, at school.  Denying a child the ability to maintain their individuality at school in this way is detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing, and could put children at risk of abuse when parents do not approve of their chosen self-expression. For the benefit of New Hampshire’s youth and families, New Futures urges Governor Sununu to veto HB 1431 if it is sent to his desk.”

Chris Erchull, Staff Attorney, GLAD: “School is where young people are most likely to interact with adults they can trust outside of their families. Schools can play an important role in helping students engage in difficult conversations at home. That support is all the more important given increased mental health challenges many adolescents are experiencing due to the pandemic. For LGBTQ students, this crucial role can add value to one of the most sensitive and important family conversations of their lives. This legislation will take that support away from students and instead force educators to interfere with families by outing students before they are ready.”

Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director for Granite State Progress: “HB 1431 would have a similar chilling effect on classroom exchanges as the divisive concepts legislation passed last session. Children have the right to a safe, healthy, and supportive environment, and to receive a strong education that prepares them to meet the challenges of the future.” 

Deb Howes, President, AFT-NH: “AFT-NH is greatly disappointed by the NH Senate’s passage of the Parental Bill of Rights. We strongly believe in productive communication between teachers and parents, but this bill is so sweeping that it would chill confidences vulnerable children want to have with trusted teachers or other school staff. We wish every child came from a safe and loving home where they could share all their concerns with their parents without fear of harm, but this is not always the case. Children dealing with personal issues who don’t feel safe talking to a parent but want to confide in a school employee would lose much-needed protection for their social and emotional health. This bill would make it impossible for teachers and school staff to treat classrooms and schools as safe zones for all students, including the most vulnerable.”

Megan Tuttle, President, NEA-New Hampshire: “Parents and teachers in New Hampshire have been working together for a long time to ensure our schools consistently provide what’s best for our children and their education. Instead of building upon the on-going parent-teacher relationship, HB 1431 takes the opposite approach. Its broad language around so-called rights and notice, particularly on the heels of the banned concepts law, coupled with the threat of litigation will only provoke a greater chill in our schools. Rather than working to encourage educators to make their schools and classrooms welcoming, safe places for all students, HB 1431 installs a system based on vague rules and intimidation. The Senate vote puts us on the path to lawyers running our classrooms, not educators. No one has yet answered the question as to where this bill ends. HB 1431 seems to pit one parent’s right to direct their child’s education experience against the exclusion of another’s simply by virtue of being in the same class or school together. There is nothing compelling us to pass this legislation other than the high stakes politics of the moment, not the well-being of our children.”

Heidi Carrington Heath, Executive Director, NH Council of Churches: “The New Hampshire Council of Churches is deeply disappointed in the Senate vote on HB 1431. On behalf of clergy and congregations across the state of New Hampshire, we do not believe this was the faithful response. Children are among the most sacred in our tradition, and every child deserves to feel safe, loved, and well cared for in school.  Particularly children who may be vulnerable, or otherwise at-risk at home. Children are sacred, autonomous beings worthy of rights and protection. A core responsibility of our legislators is to consider the impact of each piece of legislation on the most vulnerable population it is directed toward. Today we failed to love and care for our youngest neighbors in this way.”

Frank Knaack, Policy Director, ACLU of New Hampshire: “LGBTQ people belong, and sometimes schools are the only place for LGBTQ youth to feel safe being who they are. This bill could force teachers and counselors to disclose the confidential records of LGBTQ youth, potentially placing these students at risk of harm. This bill is an unconscionable attack on New Hampshire’s LGBTQ youth.”

Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director, Granite State Progress: “Parents have rights, but so do children. New Hampshire is failing to protect children when we elevate parental rights over the safety and security of our youth. Responsible, engaged, and supportive parents already have strong relationships with their children and the school. But sadly not every parent is loving or supportive, and our child welfare department knows all too well the dangerous situations some children experience. This bill sets a dangerous precedent. Politicians in Concord are putting kids at risk simply to score political points.”

Background: HB 1431 is based in ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) model legislation and is part of a nation-wide effort by the far-right to further target public schools, undermine an honest education, and block diversity, equity, and inclusion justice. The bill passed the House and Senate with different versions; the NH House must now concur, non-concur, or request a committee of conference. If the House concurs, the bill is headed to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk.

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NH Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on Federal Unemployment Benefits Case, Outcome Could Return Thousands of Dollars in Federal Benefits to Granite Staters Who Lost Job or Income Due to COVID-19

NH Supreme Court set to rule on Sununu Administration’s decision to prematurely cut off federal unemployment benefits for Granite Staters

CONCORD, NH – On Wednesday, May 4 at 9:30 AM, the New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Caron, et al, vs. The New Hampshire Department of Employment Security regarding the Sununu Administration’s decision to prematurely cut-off of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a move which caused Granite State families dealing with the loss of a job or income due to the COVID-19 public health pandemic to also lose out on thousands of dollars in federal unemployment benefits available to other Americans.

“It was hard enough for our families to face the loss of our jobs and income due to COVID-19, but to have Governor Sununu then take away the financial relief that the President and Congress passed for our families was a shock and a slap in the face,” said Stephanie McKay, moderator of the NH Unemployment During COVID-19 Facebook group of over 4,500 Granite Staters who experienced unemployment during COVID-19. “None of us who experienced this situation would wish it on anyone else. We lost our jobs, our income, our economic stability, and our entire way of life in the span of a few short months. Even now, while some people have been able to get back on their feet, others racked up credit card debt or emptied their life savings to keep up with the mortgage or put food on the table. We are all working hard to get back to the lives we had pre-pandemic, and it is just cruel that these federal benefits were taken away from us for no other reason than to score political points. It didn’t cost the state a dime, yet the Sununu Administration continues to stand in the way of letting our families get the benefits our taxpayer dollars fund.”

“Even overlooking the Sununu Administration’s weak excuses for blocking federal benefits for Granite Staters, the reality is there is absolutely no reason to continue to waste taxpayer dollars fighting the lawsuit when the Sununu Administration could easily just allow families to apply for the benefits now,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, which is helping with the case. “This program comes at no cost to the state, it would help struggling Granite State families, and it could boost our local economy. With so many pressing issues in our state right now, why is the Sununu Administration spending time and money to continue to block federal benefits for Granite Staters?”

“We are confident that abandoning federal dollars for New Hampshire workers was not the legislature’s intent when it directed NH Employment Security to secure all advantages available to the state and its citizens,” said Mike Perez of Perez Law, attorney for the plaintiffs. “The purpose of the unemployment insurance system is to ease the burden of unemployment on workers and, in doing so, protect the state’s economy. Congress and the President passed COVID relief packages for this very reason. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance comes at absolutely no cost to the State of New Hampshire. Even the administrative costs are covered. Instead of spending taxpayer dollars to oppose federal benefits, the state should allow the impacted workers to file for those long overdue benefits.”

Background on Lawsuit

The federal CARES package established several pandemic-related unemployment insurance programs which NH Employment Security prematurely terminated nearly 3 months before the programs were set to expire, impacting tens of thousands of Granite Staters struggling with the loss of income or jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One program in particular, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), covers workers who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits, such as self-employed people, independent contractors, gig workers, and people who started a job too recently before becoming unemployed. The sudden and early termination of this program harmed Granite State families, even though federal and state law specify the benefits must be made available and even though the program is fully funded by the federal government, including all administrative costs. An estimated 5,000 Granite Staters are impacted by the early termination of this program alone. The law clearly indicates that the federal benefit shall be made available to Granite Staters. Moreover, prematurely cutting the benefit has added more economic insecurity for families facing challenges due to COVID-19, fueling cuts to household spending while not leading to significant job gains. Experts say the real challenge is barriers to workforce re-entry such as child and caregiving responsibilities, health issues, transportation, and other factors.

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Pro-Public Education School Board Candidates Win All Across New Hampshire in Record-Shattering Turnout

I Love Public Education Sign Visibility

In first town elections since onslaught of attacks on public education and a honest, accurate education, voters send clear message that they support strong public schools and a honest, accurate education

CONCORD, NH – In race after race across New Hampshire on Town Meeting Day, concerned parents and community members in communities large and small successfully organized to elect pro-public education candidates and reject those seeking to dismantle public education and censor history.

“These results should raise serious doubts about any Republican 2022 election strategy that is built around pitting parents against local public schools and educators,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “In nearly every school board race, Granite State voters chose out-spoken champions for public education and an honest, accurate, inclusive education. This is a big win for public schools and for our future. These leaders are committed to keeping our public schools strong and making sure every student’s history and experience is valued.”

The results from the election are all the more astounding for record-shattering voter turnout, and for the blatant differences between the candidates on everything from public education, COVID public health measures, and attempts to whitewash American history and censor educators. A priority list of school board results can be found here.

Key examples from around the state:

  • Bedford experienced a 36% increase in voter turnout and elected pro-public education candidate and teacher Andrea Campbell with 2832 votes, compared to 1293 votes for Sean Monroe, a candidate supported by right-wing organization Defend Our Kids, and 856 for incumbent John Schneller; both of whom supported efforts to censor teachers and ban conversations about race and racism in public schools.
  • Londonderry elected pro-public education candidates Amanda Butcher and Kevin Gray, defeating vocal anti-masker Rachel Killian (seen here harassing school board members during a public meeting). Voters also rejected a warrant resolution to make masks completely optional and the sole decision of parents instead of school leaders and public health experts; a significant decision given Gov. Sununu’s recent decision to ban schools from enacting COVID public health measures like masks.
  • Governor Wentworth School District elected Republican State Rep. Brodie Deschaies over far-right activist Jessica Williams, who believes public schools are indoctrinating students and was arrested at a GWSD school board meeting on September 13, 2021.
  • Weare elected pro-public education candidates William “Bill” Politt and Alyssa Small, and passed full-day kindergarten; and Hollis elected pro-public education candidates Carryl Roy, Krista Whalan, and Holly Babcock.
  • Exeter and SAU 16 elected a full slate of pro-public education and honest education candidates, despite a nearly $20,000 effort by the opposition and months of voter mailings from those who oppose diversity, equity, and inclusion justice efforts in the school districts.

See more school board results here

“We are in awe of how our communities have come together to protect and support public education,” said Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director for Granite State Progress. “Parents, students, educators, and community leaders have been working for months to organize, recruit strong candidates, and support pro-public education campaigns. Watching the results come in and knowing that so many public education champions are going to be serving in these roles gives us all hope. Our schools have been under constant attack from privatization schemes, neo-Nazi’s, and of course Governor Sununu’s statewide ban on a honest education. We all know that serving on a school board right now is challenging, and we thank these leaders for stepping up for our students. We hope the folks at the State House are paying attention, because this showdown will play out again in November unless they stop the attacks on our public schools.”

Granite State Progress has an active campaign to protect public education and an honest, accurate education, and sent out mail, digital ads, phone reminders, and text messages to encourage people to show up for school board elections this year, which traditionally have lower turnout.

To learn more about what happened in New Hampshire, or speak with newly elected school board leaders or the parents and community members behind local organizing efforts, please email info@granitestateprogress.org, subject line: School Boards.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Our organization believes that a strong public education is the bedrock of democracy and we must ensure every child has the opportunity for a quality, honest, accurate, and inclusive education. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.

Second Prominent NH Conspiracy Theorist – and ReOpen NH Endorsed Candidate – Dies of COVID

Former NH Republican House candidate Wes Chapmon frequently spread disinformation on COVID-19, opposed masks and vaccines, and organized opposition to Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s COVID-19 public health measures –before becoming a critical COVID-19 patient in Dartmouth’s ICU

CONCORD, NH – Wes Chapmon, a prominent New Hampshire conspiracy theorist who spread disinformation about COVID-19, has died of COVID. Chapmon is the second prominent COVID denier activist to die of COVID-19 in New Hampshire in the past two weeks.

“COVID-19 has taken the lives of too many Americans, which is why it is critically important that we all come together to promote strong public health measures to slow the spread of COVID and save lives,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Disinformation is deadly, and we urge those who care about the health and safety of our families and our nation to get vaccinated, mask up, and follow public health guidance. It is particularly important to do that right now as our hospitals are stretched to capacity caring for critically-ill COVID patients, some of whom will still unfortunately pass away and leave behind grieving loved ones.”

According to online reports, Chapmon spent time at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin before being transferred to the ICU at Dartmouth Hitchcock, where he later succumbed to COVID-19.

Over the course of the pandemic, Chapmon routinely spread disinformation about COVID-19, comparing public health guidance to Nazi Germany and rape, promoting the dangerous use of hydroxycloroquine and ivermectin, and organizing opposition to COVID-19 protocols for health care workers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, where his wife worked. Chapmon’s COVID denier beliefs are well-documented on his Liberty Defense Coalition website and Facebook page, as well as his personal Facebook page. Chapmon was a ReOpen NH and NH Liberty Alliance endorsed Republican candidate for State Representative in 2020.

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Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems. Visit https://granitestateprogress.org/ to learn more.