NH Senate passes SB 272, a bill targeting queer youth, despite overwhelming testimony in opposition

A coalition of LGBTQ+ organizations, child welfare advocates, and public education leaders today released the following statements after the New Hampshire Senate voted 14-10 to pass SB 272, also known as a so-called “Parental Bill of Rights.”

If passed, the bill would be detrimental to the health and security of LGBTQ+ students, and it could lead to the forcible outing of students by mandating that teachers and counselors disclose confidential records with no regard for whether it puts a student in harm’s way. It also specifically singles out transgender youth for a special tier of surveillance in schools, violating students’ privacy rights.

Members of the broad coalition in opposition released the following statements:

Linds Jakows, Co-Founder of 603 Equality, said, “When I testified against this bill, I did it for my younger self and thousands of young people in New Hampshire who need trusted adults to support who they are. Every LGBTQ person needs to come out on the timeline that feels safest to them. Everyone who supports LGBTQ+ people must call on their state representatives to swiftly reject this bill.”

Chris Erchull, Attorney at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said, “Parents already have opportunities to partner with schools on the education of their children, as they should, but this bill singles out transgender and gender nonconforming students for targeted surveillance at school. It would require, among other harmful provisions, that a school report back to parents if a student attends even one GSA meeting. This is an unnecessary and dangerous proposal that takes away important sources of safety and support from kids and creates an impossible to meet burden for teachers and school personnel who work hard every day to educate New Hampshire students.”

Courtney Reed, Policy Advocate at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “Hostile legislation that unfairly targets and discriminates against LGBTQ+ youth has no place in the Granite State. LGBTQ+ people, and in particular the trans youth who would be disproportionately targeted by this bill, should not have to fear being themselves at school. Regardless of their gender, youth specifically should have the freedom to be open (or not) about their identity everywhere they go.”

Hershey Hirschkop, Executive Director, Seacoast Outright, said, “Our LGBTQ+ youth suffer disproportionately with anxiety, depression, and suicidality. This bill would exacerbate these problems by eliminating what might be the only place they feel safe and welcome: their school. At school they might find the one adult they can confide in, trust, and find counsel, whether it’s a coach, a guidance counselor, or teacher. Don’t take that away from them by passing this.”

Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath, NH Council of Churches, Executive Director, said, “Clergy and chaplains across the state understand the essential nature and value of telling the truth. Our faith tells us that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Our students at high risk in the LGBTQ+ community deserve choice, confidentiality, and agency in who they tell their truths to, and how. Passage of the parental bill of rights would put vulnerable students at risk. Instead of prioritizing healthy, open conversation, and supportive community, it would penalize LGBTQ+ students for being honest about who they are. We want all granite staters, especially our youth, to live free from oppression and thrive.”

Erin George-Kelly, Director, Youth Services at Waypoint, said, “People may assume that establishing a parents’ bill of rights means connecting loving, caring, and supportive parents with what is occurring within their child’s educational setting. However, the reality is that for some LGBTQ+ children, passage of the parental bill of rights puts them in danger of neglect and abuse at home, or of homelessness when their parents do not approve of their sexual orientation or gender identity. New Hampshire’s children deserve better.”

Sarah Robinson, Education Justice Campaign Director for Granite State Progress, said, “Our schools should be places of belonging, where all children have the freedom to learn in a safe and affirming environment. As a mother myself, I want my children to be valued in every space they are in. Coming out to a parent is a big moment in a child’s life. Regardless of how parents feel about their children’s identity, teachers and school officials should not be put in the position to interfere with that parent-child relationship. We also know that for some students, coming out puts them in serious danger at home. We have a responsibility for the safety of our students.”

Megan Tuttle, President, NEA-New Hampshire, said, “Parents and teachers in New Hampshire have been working together for a long time to ensure our schools consistently provide what’s best for our children and their education. SB 272 disregards these well-tended relationships, substituting them with rules that throw confidentiality out the window, and forces teachers to undermine the trust that creates a safe and healthy learning environment. This bill makes our schools and classrooms less safe for every student, risks their mental and physical health and well-being, and undermines the state’s obligation to provide an adequate and inclusive education for all students.”