Gov. Chris Sununu signed his second bill since becoming governor on Monday. House Bill 103 requires school districts to provide at least two weeks notice to parents and guardians of course material involving discussion of human sexuality or sex education, and to make course curriculum materials available to parents on request.
“This bipartisan legislation is consistent with my longtime support for measures that further empower parents’ involvement in their child’s education,” Sununu said in a statement. “It is important to let parents know what students are learning and this bill encourages clear and open lines of communication regarding curriculum content in this important area.”
Third time’s a charm for Rep. Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, who put forward the same legislation for the past three years. Former Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan previously vetoed it.
Sullivan put the bill forward due to a personal experience she had with her 8-year-old son who was shown what she thought was an inappropriate video in class. She wasn’t notified before that the video would be displayed for her child.
“Parents and parent groups throughout the state worked hard to make their voices heard,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Today, I am happy to say, the little guys won. It is a good day for parental rights in New Hampshire. More importantly, it is a good day for New Hampshire’s public school children. I am grateful to the Governor for signing this important piece of legislation into law.”
Supporters say the law gives parents the power to approve of the material their children are being taught at school. Opponents, including the New Hampshire School Boards Association, the New Hampshire School Administrators Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union, say it will create challenges when it comes to teachers leading class discussion in sex education.
“This bill jeopardizes Granite State students’ ability to get the critical information they need to make healthy lifelong choices,” said Kayla Montgomery, director of advocacy and organizing at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We are disappointed Governor Sununu who did not listen to the thousands of constituents and experts both in education, public health, and local school administration who opposed this bill.”
The legislation amends existing law, which allows parents or legal guardians to opt their child out of material they find objectionable. Now, schools must give advance parental notice of curriculum materials.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia require school districts to allow parental involvement in sexual education programs. Four states — Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and now New Hampshire — require parental consent before a child can receive instruction.
New Hampshire is ranked as one of the best states for teaching sexual education in schools, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC surveyed schools to ask if health instruction included 16 “critical” sexual education topics, which includes “how to create and sustain healthy and respectful relationships,” “how to obtain condoms,” and the “importance of limiting the number of sexual partners.”
New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York were the only states to teach all 16 topics in at least 75 percent of schools.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party quickly criticized the governor for signing a bill that makes “it harder for schools to teach sex-ed.”
— NH Democratic Party (@NHDems) April 17, 2017
The first bill Sununu signed as governor repealed required permits for concealed carry firearms. Right-to-work legislation failed to make it to his desk, which he would have likely signed, after the measure failed to pass in the House.