Union calls education department’s complaint form a ‘war on teachers’

  • NH teacher complaint portal —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 11/12/2021 5:38:35 PM

The second largest teacher’s union in New Hampshire has called on state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut to resign after the department created a webpage that makes it easier for parents and students to report teachers for alleged discrimination under the state’s “divisive concepts” law. 

In a statement issued Thursday, American Federation of Teachers New Hampshire President Deb Howes said Edelblut had declared a “war on teachers” that could lead to educators losing their licenses over unfounded claims. 

“AFT-NH calls on Gov. Chris Sununu to demand that Edelblut step down over his outrageous, obviously politically motivated, harmful effort,” Howes said in the statement. 

The National Education Association New Hampshire, the largest teacher’s union in the state, had opposed Edelblut’s reconfirmation and wants to see the state’s new ‘Freedom from Discrimination’ law repealed.

Brian Hawkins, government relations director for NEA-NH, said the union sent a letter to the Department of Education in August seeking clarity on how the law would apply to teachers – a letter that went unanswered.

“All of a sudden we see this form,” said Hawkins. “It seems the administration is more interested in the process of investigations (in) the law than making sure educators have the adequate guidance to comply with it.” 

“I think it underscores the concern that the law’s intent was to chill education about diversity, equity and inclusion and about learning past mistakes so they’re not repeated again, for the benefit of our students and the country, the state and the country,” Hawkins said. 

The Department of Education site was created in response to the Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education Law passed in June. The so-called “divisive concepts” law prohibits public school teachers from teaching that one group is inherently superior or inferior to people of another group, or that one group is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive.

“It was bad enough that the law tried to find a problem that doesn’t exist—no teacher in New Hampshire teaches that any group is inherently superior or inferior to another,” Howes said in AFT-New Hampshire’s statement.

On the Department of Education website, a parents or student who believes a teacher has broken this law can fill out and submit a form, which is sent to the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights for investigation. The commission determines whether the person filing has the basis to file a formal complaint.

After the web page was announced, Moms for Liberty NH wrote on Twitter that the group would offer a monetary reward for parents, teachers, students or school staff who reported teachers.

“We've got $500 for the person that first successfully catches a public school teacher breaking this law,” the New Hampshire chapter of the national conservative parents’ organization wrote on Friday. 

Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut told the Union-Leader that he knows teachers do their best to treat students equally and with dignity and respect. “This webpage is now available to the public so, in the rare instance that something might appear to be adverse treatment, individuals have a place to go where they can voice their concerns and receive assistance –- whether that be parents or teachers,” Edelblut told the newspaper. 

Howes said Edelblut refused AFT-NH’s invitation to meet with its members about the law and instead launched the webpage to report and investigate them. 

“It’s a pity that New Hampshire has an education commissioner who doesn’t support educators and the work they do every single day to help our children,” she said.

Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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