New Hampshire’s limits on teaching on race and gender are unconstitutional, judge says

May 29, 2024, 7:16 AM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A federal judge has struck down New Hampshire’s nearly 3-year-old law limiting what teachers can say about race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and other topics in public schools as unconstitutionally vague. The ruling could revive the topic as an election year campaign issue.

Republicans pitched the 2021 law as an anti-discrimination measure after the Trump administration sought to ban discussion of “divisive concepts.” It prohibits teaching public school children that they’re inferior, racist, sexist or oppressive by virtue of their race, gender or other characteristics.

Teachers found to have violated the law could face discipline including the possible loss of their licenses, and could also face lawsuits.

Educators and administrators who sued the state said they were confused about what they could legally teach. They said the law violates their freedom of speech, and they feared for their jobs.

U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro ruled Tuesday that the law’s phrasing about banned concepts speaks only obliquely about the targeted speech, and fails “to provide teachers with much-needed clarity” about how they might apply it, both in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities where students might initiate conversations.

“This lack of clarity sows confusion and leaves significant gaps” that can only be filled by law enforcers, which invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement based on a particular law enforcement authority’s point of view.

Several groups sued, including the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire; the National Education Association-New Hampshire; the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire union; diversity, equity and inclusion school administrators; teachers and parents.

They sued New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, Commission on Human Rights Chair Christian Kim, and New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella.

The judge’s decision “means that educators across New Hampshire can nurture an equitable and inclusive school environment where all students are seen and heard,” Christina Kim Philibotte and Andres Mejia, two New Hampshire school administrators who are plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement. “It is critically important that students see themselves in the books they read and in the classroom discussions they have to ensure that they feel cared for and valued.”

The attorney general’s office is reviewing the judge’s order and considering whether to file an appeal, a spokesperson said.

New Hampshire’s law is one of many in Republican-led states that have sought to restrict classroom discussions over concerns about critical race theory, which centers on the idea that racism has been systemic in the nation’s institutions.

“Judge Barbadoro just put stopping Critical Race Theory back on the ballot in November,” Republican state Rep. Keith Ammon of New Boston posted on X.

Chuck Morse, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, was president of the state Senate when the law was crafted and passed. He called the ruling “a crucial step towards creating an educational environment that focuses on unity and equality, and I will not be deterred by this setback.”

National News

Associated Press

Sweltering temperatures persist across the US, while floodwaters inundate the Midwest

Millions of Americans sweated through a scorching weekend as temperatures soared across the U.S., while residents were rescued from floodwaters that forced evacuations across the Midwest. One person was killed during flooding in South Dakota, the governor said. From the mid-Atlantic to Maine, across the Great Lakes region, and throughout the West to California, public […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

3 Columbia University administrators put on leave over alleged text exchange at antisemitism panel

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University said it has placed three administrators on leave while it investigates allegations that they exchanged unprofessional text messages while attending a panel discussion about antisemitism on campus. The university said the administrators work for its undergraduate Columbia College, which hosted the panel discussion “Jewish Life on Campus: Past, Present […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged in shooting that critically wounded Philadelphia officer, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A 36-year-old Philadelphia man was charged Sunday with attempted murder in connection with a shooting that critically wounded a police officer after a traffic stop, police said. Ramon Rodriguez Vazquez also faces charges that include aggravated assault and home invasion, police said. The 31-year-old officer and his partner stopped a car carrying […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

California boy, 4, who disappeared from campground found safe after 22 hours alone in wilderness

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 4-year-old California boy who wandered away from a campground in the Sierra National Forest was found safe after spending 22 hours alone in the wilderness, authorities said. A search-and-rescue team of about 50 officers and volunteers set out around 11 a.m. Thursday after the child was reported missing from the […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

One man died and five others were hospitalized in downtown St. Louis shooting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — One man is dead and five others have been wounded in a downtown St. Louis shooting, police said. Police believe women were fighting in a park when men stepped in and drew firearms, according to a statement from St. Louis police. The man who died likely was in his mid-twenties and […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan sheriff’s deputy fatally shot pursuing a stolen vehicle in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while pursing a suspected stolen vehicle in Detroit, the Oakland County sheriff’s office said Sunday. Bradley J. Reckling, who was on duty in an unmarked car, was following a 2022 Chevy Equinox Saturday evening after the vehicle was reported stolen earlier in the day […]

12 hours ago

New Hampshire’s limits on teaching on race and gender are unconstitutional, judge says