NH Groups: "Parental Bill of Rights" Undermines Privacy, Harms Students
Thursday, May 5, 2022
The New Hampshire Senate is holding a floor vote today on a bill they are calling the "parental bill of rights" but which advocates for LGBTQ+ young people say undermines student privacy and would harm students' mental health.
Among other measures, it requires schools to notify a student's parents if they participate in school clubs, extracurricular activities or visit the school counselor.
Chris Erchull, staff attorney for GLAD-GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, said the provisions would be harmful to LGBTQ+ students, and would undermine school efforts to create an affirming and inclusive learning environment.
"LGBTQ youth have the right to go to school and express themselves as who they are including with their exploration with gender, and they should also have the right to associate freely with peers and with teachers that they trust," Erchull contended. "This legislation really does interfere with those rights."
Proponents of the bill argued it would foster parent involvement in education, but Erchull countered the U.S. is facing a mental health crisis, which is disproportionately affecting LGBTQ+ students, and young people need to be able to connect with trusted adults at school.
Linds Jakows, a Dover-based advocate, echoed LGBTQ+ students need safe spaces such as clubs at school or the opportunity to discuss their identity with a counselor without judgment, and the law could deprive students of those protections, especially those whose parents may not accept who they are.
"When I was a student, I gradually started coming out as queer to a few trusted friends and my favorite teacher," Jakows recounted. "If there had been a parental-rights law on the books at that time, my father absolutely would have gone so far as to show up at a school Gay-Straight Alliance meeting to prevent me from going."
The bill has been passed by the House and advanced out of Senate committees ahead of today's floor vote. If senators vote to pass it, groups will be looking to Gov. Chris Sununu for a veto.
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