Education bills would give parents more control over assessment tests, sex ed

Associated Press
Published: 2/2/2017 4:12:07 PM

Parents would get more control over their children’s education, including advanced notice when the topic is sex, under several actions taken by the New Hampshire House on Thursday.

The House passed one bill that would require school districts to provide parents at least two weeks’ notice about material related to human sexuality and reproduction and a second that would allow parents to decide whether their children participate in statewide assessment tests.

Lawmakers also rejected an attempt to end a program that gives tax credits to businesses in exchange for scholarships designed to allow low- and middle-income parents to send their children to better schools.

Opponents of the education tax credit argue it diverts money to religious and private schools with no accountability and violates the separation of church and state provision of New Hampshire’s constitution. Supporters say it promotes educational freedom and choice for low-income families.

“It goes to the whole issue of school choice and parental decisions as to what is best for the education of their children. They know their children best,” said Rep. Glenn Cordelli, a Republican from Tuftonboro. “Parents should have a say in where their children go to school and what education they get rather than just basing a child’s school on a ZIP code.”

The sponsor of the parental notification bill, Rep. Victoria Sullivan, said she was moved to draft the bill after her 13-year-old son described a video he watched at school that advised young molestation victims to confront their abusers alone. Another parent told her that her 13-year-old daughter was distraught to learn about various sexual acts in school.

While current law allows parents to opt out if they object to course material, it does not require parental notification. Supporters say the proposed change would allow parents to talk to their children before the lesson and follow up with them after.

The subject matter is important, but how it’s delivered is even more so,” said Sullivan, a Manchester Republican. “Once we rob these children of their innocence, it cannot be replaced with an apology.”

Opponents argued the proposal could lead to fewer students having access to important health education at a time when the state is seeing an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

“Not all parents are comfortable talking to their children about tough topics. What our schools need to do is to send out timely information as directed in their local policy and engage parents,” said Democratic Rep. Mary Heath of Manchester. “But what we don’t want to do is put teachers in a situation where the learning stops and a teachable moment becomes an uncomfortable pause in time and an opportunity for learning is lost.”

The bill is similar to one that former Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, vetoed in 2015. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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