The Bulletin Board

Outlook for ‘teacher loyalty’ bill dims as House Education Committee recommends it be killed

By: - March 10, 2022 5:02 pm
State house dome

House Bill 1255 would amend an area in New Hampshire statute titled “Teachers’ Loyalty.” (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A bill to prohibit New Hampshire teachers from advocating for theories “promoting a negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America” appears unlikely to advance this year after the House Education Committee recommended it be killed Tuesday.

House Bill 1255 would amend an area in New Hampshire statute titled “Teachers’ Loyalty” – a 1949 state law that prohibits teachers from advocating for communism – and expand it to include a ban on the endorsement of socialism or Marxism in classrooms. 

The bill would also prevent the teaching of a negative account of America’s founding “which does not include the worldwide context of now outdated and discouraged practices,” a reference to the practice of chattel slavery. “Such prohibition includes but is not limited to teaching that the United States was founded on racism,” the bill states. 

Violating the proposed prohibition could result in professional sanctions against a teacher by the State Board of Education, according to the bill.

The bill became a political lightning rod from the moment it was filed, bringing educators and school administrators into the House hearing room, who argued it would usher in censorship of teachers. 

But on Tuesday, the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Alicia Lekas, a Hudson Republican, led the charge to recommend it be killed, telling the committee it needed more time. 

“I decided the best thing to do is ‘ITL’ the whole thing and bring it back next year,” Lekas said, referring to the recommendation that the bill be found “inexpedient to legislate.” The committee voted for that recommendation, 18-0. 

Lekas said that the fact that the bill amended the existing “Teachers’ Loyalty” statute created an optics problem for its supporters as teachers bristled at the idea their patriotism could be questioned. 

“This bill as written was very badly written,” Lekas said. “And I just wanted on the record that the title ‘Teachers’ Loyalty’ had to do with the section in law and not my title. There’s been a lot of emails, et cetera, that we’re trying to say that teachers weren’t loyal, and it has nothing to do with that.”

Lekas said she had produced an amendment intended to change the bill, which was prepared this week, but she said that amendment would not have time to be considered before upcoming legislative deadlines. 

The bill will go next to the House floor this month with a unanimous recommendation that it be killed. Though the House could overturn that recommendation, the likelihood is slim. 

HB 1255 followed a bill signed into law last year that prohibits teachers from teaching four core concepts relating to racism and structural oppression. Democrats, who call the new statute a “banned concepts” law, say it will create a “chilling effect” for teachers that could prompt them to abandon important conversations around race. New Hampshire teachers unions have launched two separate lawsuits against the law in federal court. Republicans have called the statute an “anti-discrimination law” that they say protects students from being told that they are advantaged or disadvantaged because of their race.

So far, public records indicate that no teacher has been sanctioned under the statute, which also carries potential professional consequences for teachers in the Commission for Human Rights and the State Board of Education.

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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.