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Education Reporter

New Parent Power in New Hampshire
New Hampshire parents have a new tool for directing their children's public school education. The Tea Party dominated legislature overrode Democratic Governor John Lynch's veto to approve a measure empowering parents to request an alternative for any aspect of their child's school curriculum they find objectionable.

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School districts must now work with parents to determine an alternative curriculum or text that will satisfy state educational requirements for the particular subject matter. Parents are responsible for paying the cost of developing the new curriculum and for any substitute materials.

Bill sponsor Rep. J.R. Hoell emphasized that the law enables parents to address both moral and academic objections to the curriculum. For example, parents who disagree with the "whole language" approach to reading instruction could request a phonics-based curriculum instead. Hoell also said parents could object to the distribution of condoms and lubricants in sex ed classes. He disputed criticism that parents could opt children out of sex ed classes entirely, saying only parents with religious objections could do so.

In his veto message, Governor Lynch protested that the measure would prove too burdensome to school districts and could cause teachers to shy away from "new ideas and critical thinking" to avoid complaints. His comments gave parents little credit for using good judgment about their children's education: "Parents could object to a teacher's plan to teach the history of France or the history of the civil or women's rights movements. Under this bill, a parent could find objectionable how a teacher instructs on the basics of algebra."

State Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley also expressed disdain for parental influence on children's education, calling the law "an unprecedented attack on New Hampshire children's right to a quality education." He claimed it would "end education in New Hampshire as we know it, allowing children to be removed from any lessons their parents choose." (HuffingtonPost.com, 1-4-12)

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