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Lawmakers drop 'parental bill of rights' after failing to reach compromise

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Citing concerns from advocates and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, lawmakers said there wasn’t enough time to improve the bill this legislative session.

House and Senate lawmakers have failed to reach a compromise over a "parental bill of rights" bill.

The proposed bill, modeled after legislation elsewhere in the country, would have expanded parents' oversight over curriculum and their child’s participation in clubs and conversations with staff.

In a meeting Tuesday, Senator Sharon Carson, a Republican from Londonderry, argued the bill was needed, because parents didn't know what kinds of conversations teachers were having with students.

“We're talking about parents who put their kids on a school bus to go to school, and do they have a right to know what's going on in that school?” she asked.

Democrats opposed the measure, and this week, the Attorney General's office warned lawmakers that parts of the bill could violate anti-discrimination law designed to protect LGBTQ students.

“There are specific provisions in the Senate version of the bill that specifically identify gender identity and expression as a basis to have to make reports to parents,” explained Assistant Attorney General Sean R. Locke. “That specifically identifies that group of students, as opposed to any other group.”

Locke also warned the provisions would essentially require schools to “out” LGBTQ students to their families, even if they didn’t want their families to know out of fear of being shunned or misunderstood.

Advocates against domestic violence also shared concerns the bill wouldn't protect abuse victims' confidentiality.

Rep. Kim Rice, a Republican from Hudson who is chair of the House Children and Family Law Committee, said the bill had merit but shouldn't move forward this year, given the number of concerns.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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