The Bulletin Board

House negotiators seek addition to ‘divisive concepts’ language

By: - June 15, 2021 12:31 pm
The state house behind a historical marker

Not only does redistricting play a role in the design of the district boundaries for the Granite State’s congressional, state, and county offices, it plays a vital role in our communities and will affect our day-to-day lives for the next decade. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

House Republican budget negotiators appear ready to approve a revised version of New Hampshire’s “divisive concepts” bill – the proposal to ban teachers and government employees from teaching that structural racism and sexism definitively exist in American society.

But the House is pushing for one addition before signing on. In addition to the teaching prohibitions added by the Senate, House negotiators are requesting a provision that specifically bars teachers from teaching that discrimination is a “fundamental component of the state of New Hampshire or the United States.” 

The new demand came in the form of an amendment presented Monday to the committee of conference for House Bill 2, the 217-page two-year budget policy bill. 

That committee, made up of House and Senate negotiators, is working this week to iron out differences between the two Republican-held chambers over the budget documents.

The New Hampshire House passed a budget that included a version of the legislation that would ban “divisive concepts” from being taught in schools, which the bill defined as relating to the ideas that one race or gender is advantaged over another, and that one race or gender inherently discriminates against another.

But after Gov. Chris Sununu opposed that language, the Senate overhauled the proposal, framing it as an anti-discrimination measure against students, parents, or public employees who feel that a particular race or class – for instance, a white male – is being targeted by a diversity training or history lesson. 

The Senate version also allows those who feel they are the victim of targeting to seek action in the state’s Human Rights Commission, which adjudicates anti-discrimination complaints. 

Top House negotiators appeared to have accepted the Senate changes Monday. 

An amendment submitted by Rep. Lynne Ober, the Hudson Republican who is chairing the committee this week, includes all of the Senate language first added to the budget in May.

That includes a ban on teaching that an individual is inherently superior to another based on their race, gender, sexual identity, or other protected class; that a person inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive “whether consciously or unconsciously”; that an individual should be discriminated against for their identity; and that a person’s identity should affect how they are treated by others. 

But the latest amendment also includes a provision prohibiting teaching that structural racism is a part of modern American government.

Teachers and government employees may no longer teach “that discrimination against or adverse treatment of individuals because of their age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, mental or physical disability, religion, or national origin is a fundamental component of the state of New Hampshire or the United States,” the amendment states. 

The amendment is set to be discussed during the upcoming committee of conference deliberations, which resume at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

But one interest group, and long time opponent of the bill, has already condemned it.

“This insidious amendment seeks to erase our country and state’s history: one that is factually rooted in slavery, racism, sexism, and discrimination,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. “. . . This is a crisis of New Hampshire’s identity and values: Are we an inclusive state that reckons with our difficult history, or one that ignores that history, perpetuating the racism and discrimination stemming from it?”

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.