Valley Information – NH’s ‘divisive ideas’ steering for educators, public employers nonetheless murky on many factors
Editor’s Note: This story was first published in the New Hampshire Bulletin.
CONCORD – Public school educators will not violate the state’s new law on “divisive concepts” if their teaching on slavery, the civil rights movement and the treatment of marginalized groups is “uncomfortable” with some students, according to guidelines issued by the Attorney General on Wednesday evening .
“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 cause discomfort to students, teachers or parents,” the guideline reads. “These lessons can encourage or stimulate students to reflect on whether and how racism, sexism, or other practices have affected their lives or not. Even discussions of historical practices and their ongoing effects on various identified groups can cause this discomfort. ”
The state issued separate guidelines for public employers on Wednesday.
The new law, passed as part of the state budget, prohibits schools from teaching that a group of people is inherently racist, superior, or inferior to another group. Teachers across the state have expressed uncertainty and fear about what topics and discussions are off-limits.
The three-page Q-and-A guide for educators explains how to deal with complaints and who the new law applies to. But it is unlikely that the debate about what can and cannot be taught can be resolved because it speaks broadly and not specifically.
According to the guidelines, the law does not prohibit the teaching of historical subjects or the discussion of current events such as “the Black Lives Matter movement, efforts to promote equality and inclusion, or other contemporary events that affect certain identified groups”.
And educators can still teach “the historical existence of ideas and issues identified in the new law,” including discrimination based on race, gender, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or religion.
However, the Attorney General did not say how and whether implicit bias – which is at the center of many discrimination cases – can be brought into the discussions.
The law affects face-to-face teaching, extracurricular activities, and staff and volunteer training for both K-12 and public colleges and universities. Parents who object to certain courses or discussions can exempt their students from participating.
A student or parent who believes a teacher 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 a higher court. An educator who breaks the law can expect disciplinary action from the state education authority.
The guidelines do not say how claims are investigated.
“We are pleased to be able to publish these eagerly awaited instructions,” said Education Ministry Commissioner Frank Edelblut on Wednesday. “Our goal is to clarify the law and (we) will continue to work with districts to help them implement it.”
The New Hampshire Bulletin can be found at newhampshirebulletin.com.