Parents’ Rights Vetoed by Governor Hassan

At the close of the 2015 legislative session, Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed two major parents’ rights bills; HB 603, a bill that would explicitly give parents the right to refuse their child’s participation in statewide assessments, and HB 332, a bill that would require school districts to give at least two weeks notice and advance access to classroom materials used in human sexuality courses.

In her veto statement on HB 603, the Governor stated the bill would “…conflict with state educational accountability laws, undercut one of the tools that educators use to evaluate K-12 student progress, and jeopardize federal funding for New Hampshire schools.”

This statement has multiple flaws. First, students are not accountable to the state or the federal government. This flips accountability on its head. Schools should be accountable to parents and taxpayers. Second, the statewide assessments cannot provide useful measurement of student progress when the results are not available for months after the end of the school year. New Hampshire’s spring 2015 results are not expected until the next school year. Also, many educational professionals believe the tests and cut scores are designed to indicate failure. It also perpetuates the gross misunderstanding that a student’s achievement can be fully realized in a single test score. These assessments do nothing to help a teacher evaluate individual student achievement or knowledge. And finally, federal funding is not jeopardized when students do not participate in statewide assessments. To date, not a single state or school has lost federal funds for participation rates below the 95% requirement in No Child Left Behind waivers. This also implies that parents’ rights are for sale to the demands of the US Department of Education.

Regarding HB 332, Gov. Hassan said that she vetoed the bill because it would “…make it more difficult for young people to receive critical public health education and it could affect a wide range of curricula — including science and the study of important literature, ranging from Mark Twain to Shakespeare.” The lunacy of that statement cannot be ignored. This echoes a similar statement made by Senator David Watters on the senate floor during the HB 332 vote. The bill is narrowly written to only apply to “curriculum course material used for instruction of human sexuality or human sexual education.” To say that it affects Mark Twain, Shakespeare, or using other literary works is a gross overstatement.

The current opt-out statute, RSA 186:11 IX-c, passed in 2012, allows parents the choice to substitute objectionable materials for their own child at their own expense. While this statute can be used for any subject, it does not address the loop hole that parents must first be aware of what material is being used and when. HB 332 sought to address that gap as it pertains to materials involved in human sexuality unit studies. The bill would have allowed parents to make informed decisions regarding their children’s education.

The legislature will resume in mid September and will have the opportunity to overturn these vetoes. Please sign the petition to send an email to all House Reps and Senators asking them to overturn the Governor’s veto of HB 603. We will continue our efforts as we get closer to the next House and Senate sessions. Stay tuned for updates!

For more information on these bills and issues, read the following articles:
HB 603 — Overturn the Veto
Update on HB 603, the Parental Refusal Bill
Writing Parent’s Rights into Statute
Parents Can Refuse