The Senate Education Committee recently heard two bills that have generated significant controversy. One bill aims to define the biological sex of students participating in school athletics, while the other bill focuses on setting up an appeal process for books in school libraries that some parents consider harmful to minors. The committee received an overwhelming amount of testimony opposing both measures.
Sen. Kevin Avard, a Republican from Nashua, stated that he received requests from multiple constituents to sponsor Senate Bill 523. The purpose of this bill is to establish regulations and rating systems for school library books. Additionally, it aims to create an appeal process that allows individuals to escalate their concerns from the principal to the local school board and ultimately to the state Board of Education. You can find more information about this bill at the following link: [Senate Bill 523](https://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billinfo.aspx?id=1960&inflect=2).
According to him, his proposal aims to establish guidelines that would ensure fairness and maintain the integrity of girls’ sports.
According to Avard, there is a strong demand for SB 523 among parents. He emphasizes that parents currently have no alternatives besides removing their children from schools. Avard believes that implementing this bill would establish an appeal process, providing parents with a means to contest the reading materials available in schools.
Critics of the legislation argued that existing safeguards already exist to ensure the protection of everyone’s rights. They claimed that the bills were specifically aimed at singling out and harming already vulnerable children, which raises concerns about their constitutionality.
According to some individuals, the bills specifically focus on individuals belonging to the LGBTQ+ community.
In the past, the House has turned down similar bills that aimed to protect LGBTQ+ rights.
During the testimony, some individuals raised the argument that the bill on books was merely “copycat language” and identical to similar legislation being discussed in various other states.
There are two important bills currently in the House that deserve attention: HB 1419 and HB 1311. These bills, which can be found at the following links: HB 1419 and HB 1311, are specifically designed to address issues related to school media.
Biederman proposed that SB 523 should be revised to grant any taxpayer, regardless of parental status, the ability to contest books in a school library. According to her, presenting obscene materials in an educational environment amounted to “child abuse.”
Some argued that denying parents the ability to choose would infringe upon the rights of others.
Iris Turmelle, an eighth grader, testified about the bill’s intent, which she believed was to restrict her from using the girls’ bathroom, despite her legal female identification.
According to her mother, who also spoke against both bills, her daughter is an avid reader who benefits from seeing characters like Iris represented in the books she reads.
State Representative David Paige, a Democrat from Conway, expressed his support for a transparent complaints process. However, he believes that other bills proposed in the House offer a more effective framework. Paige further argued that a provision in the book bill, which requires a vendor rating system, violates the constitutional right to free speech. Additionally, he criticized the proposal for granting the state Board of Education the authority to make final decisions instead of the locally elected school board, thereby undermining the democratic process.
During the discussion led by state Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, Jennifer Smith, a retired doctor who is transgender, acknowledged that there are indeed physiological differences between men and women. However, she pointed out that levels of testosterone can vary in both genders.
Smith questioned the necessity of imposing such a burden on the schools.
Representatives from various organizations, including the Kent Street Coalition, New Futures, the ACLU of New Hampshire, NAMI-NH, GLAD, NEA-NH, 603 Equality, and the American Federation of Teachers of NH, as well as concerned individuals, expressed their opposition to the two bills during the testimony.
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