Father at center of Gilford High School book controversy gets national attention
GILFORD — After getting arrested at a school board meeting for objecting to a sexually explicit passage in a book assigned to his high school freshman daughter, Billy Baer said he hoped his message would spread awareness of the school’s teaching and parental notification policies.
But his actions at the May 5 meeting have brought him a boatload of national attention from top news outlets, everything from Fox News to MSNBC to various political blogs, both conservative and liberal, on the Internet.
News outlet investigators have also revealed that Baer is what some call a “Birther,” and has been in the public eye on other issues in the past.
Baer admits to both claims. A birther is slang for a person who does not believe President Barack Obama was born a U.S. citizen.
“But this is not about me, it was never about me, it’s about what they are teaching in our schools and the inability for a parent to speak at a school board meeting,” Baer said Tuesday.
Baer was arrested at the meeting after arguing with another parent about Gilford High School’s use of the book “Nineteen Minutes” by bestselling author Jodi Picoult. Baer found a graphic sexual passage in the book, and objected because the school had not given parents proper notice that their children were assigned such books.
He was arrested for disorderly conduct and taken away from the school board meeting. After he was taken out, several audience members said they supported Baer’s statements about the book’s use in a classroom.
The news of his arrest spread quickly. That week, he was featured on two primetime Fox News Channel segments as well as other national cable news programs, and his story was featured on news telecasts around the country. He became a favorite of many political blogs and the enemy of others.
At the nhteapartycoalition.org site, he has strong support. A few days after he was arrested, the site featured an article titled, “Support for William Baer Pours in from Coast to Coast.”
Another site, culturecampaign.blogspot.com, posted an article titled, “N.H. School Teaches Porn, Complaining Dad Arrested.”
Meanwhile, at other websites and new programs which tend to favor liberal causes, he was labeled as a “Fox and Tea Party Hero.”
And several sites researched and found that Baer, when he lived in New Jersey a few years ago, was a vocal questioner of President Obama’s birth place.
“Is Fox News’ Book Protesting Dad, William Baer, A Famous Birther?” read the headline of a story at newshounds.us, a left-leaning news site, on Tuesday.
Baer readily admitted that he was once active in a New Jersey political group that questioned whether Obama was really born in America. He said he’s still not sure about the President’s birthplace, but is no longer heavily invested in the cause.
“It was a legitimate question,” he said. “I did not hate the President, I had some tough questions for President Bush, too.”
And though Baer has made himself available to stand before a camera for lots of news outlets in the past two weeks, he said he doesn’t want or like being in the spotlight.
“I didn’t do this because I’m looking for attention,” Baer said. “The truth is, if I’m considered a hero for speaking up at a school board meeting, we’re living in a pathetic country. People should be doing that all the time, and they shouldn’t be arrested.”
He said he will continue to fight for parental rights in schools, after things cool down a bit.“I have more attention than I want right now,” he said. “The issue of what is being shown to our kids, that’s what’s important.”