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Gov. Sununu expected to sign bill requiring notice before teaching sex ed


MANCHESTER — Gov. Chris Sununu said he is supportive of a bill requiring school districts to provide advance notice to parents of course material involving a discussion of human sexuality or human sexual education.

Sununu, R-Newfields, said in an interview Monday that, after a final review of the bill, he is inclined to sign it into law to ensure parents have a say and can be engaged.

That was welcome news for Rep. Victoria Sullivan, R-Manchester, the prime sponsor of the bill, who saw similar legislation killed in each of the last two years.

The House and Senate have passed the bill. It is currently in enrollment and will soon be on the governor’s desk.

The measure is how Sullivan, now in her second term in the House, got into politics. “I was just an angry mom who couldn’t get answers,” she said, recalling course material one of her sons, then a third-grader, sat through.

The bill would require the school district or classroom teacher to give parents or guardians at least two weeks notice of curriculum material used for instruction of human sexuality or sex education.

The American Civil Liberties Union of NH and the National Coalition Against Censorship were among a half dozen groups signing a letter urging Sununu to reject the bill. The opponents maintain it would “wreak havoc” on a school’s entire curriculum.

Former Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-Newfields, offered a similar argument when she vetoed Sullivan’s bill in 2015. In her veto message, Hassan said the bill would create a greater stigma concerning sex education, and have potential impact on the health of young people.

“New Hampshire law already provides protections that allow parents to opt their children out from curricula that the parents consider to be objectionable,” Hassan wrote.

Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, a former deputy commissioner of the state Department of Education, wrote the House Education Committee’s minority report, in 2015 and this year, in opposition to the bill. The intent of the bill is already in the state’s minimum standards, which offers guidance for local school districts, according to Heath.

“Most school districts have a process in place and this dictate will not solve a problem,” Heath wrote in this year’s minority report. “Furthermore, this bill jeopardizes the young people of New Hampshire’s ability to get the critical information they need to make healthy lifelong choices.”

Sullivan said critics of the bill are misrepresenting its scope. It has nothing to do with literature, or any claims it could lead to censorship of some class material, she said. The intent is to update current law, which provides for parents to opt their child out of course material they find objectionable, to include the parental notification language, according to Sullivan.

dtuohy@unionleader.com