By HOLLY RAMER Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A bill that would have required school officials to disclose to inquiring parents that their child is using a different name or being referred to as being a different gender was defeated Thursday in the New Hampshire House.
The bill had passed the GOP-dominated Senate in March along party lines. But while Republicans hold a razor-thin majority in the 400-member House, Democrats had a one-vote edge in attendance for Thursday’s session.
Democrats passed several “poison pill” amendments to weaken the bill before it was defeated on a 195-190 vote, with two Republicans crossing party lines to oppose it. Rep. Gerri Cannon, a Democrat from Somersworth who was one of the first transgender lawmakers elected in New Hampshire, said her heart was beating faster and faster with each amendment until the final vote.
“I was truly excited,” she said. “I’ve been so upset with what’s going on in this country.”
Many states with Republican-controlled legislatures have enacted similar measures, fueled by parental frustration with schools that boiled over during the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S. House, such a bill was the first legislation that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy formally announced — fulfilling a major part of the GOP campaign platform.
The New Hampshire version sought “to establish a consistent mechanism for parents to be notified of information relating to the health, well-being, and educational progress of their minor children while those children are in the custody and control of the public schools.”
“Now is the time to recognize that parents, not schools, not school personnel, are the parents with all those rights and responsibilities for their minor children,” said Rep. Rick Ladd, a Republican from Haverhill.
The final vote to “indefinitely postpone” the bill means the topic can’t be revisited this session, a scenario that drew an angry response from House Majority Leader Jason Osborne.
“This will send a message to parents that they must continue, until the next election when they can replace their representatives, to accept that school is a mysterious and secretive black box where they deposit their children, who knows what happens inside that box and who knows what comes out the other side,” he said.
Opponents have argued that while it may appear benign in detailing many rights already covered by existing state and federal law, the bill would have exposed LGBQT+ students to the risk of abuse at home — a bad idea for young people who are already prone to stress, depression and suicidal thoughts. Rep. Linda Ryan, a Democrat from Nashua and a retired teacher, objected to a provision that would have allowed parents to sue school personnel.
“If I have to keep a record and call every one of those parents every single time I see Susie and Sally hugging in the hallway, we will never have another public school teacher again,” she said. “I strongly encourage you to go to your public schools and substitute for less than $100 a day and see for your very own self what this bill will do to our public schools and our teachers.”
Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a similar bill last year that would have required schools to automatically notify parents about students’ sexual or gender identity. Sununu said Wednesday he generally supported the new bill.