CBLDF has join a coalition led by the National Coalition Against Censorship to protest H.B. 103, a New Hampshire bill that would require school districts to provide two weeks’ advance parental notice about “curriculum course material used for instruction of human sexuality or human sexual education.”
The bill is identical to H.B. 332, a bill that then-Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed in 2015 due to overly-broad language. As NCAC explains in its letter:
In 2015, when Governor Hassan vetoed HB 332, an identical bill, she pointed out that the bill would not only “create an even greater stigma concerning sex education and lead to fewer students having access to important health education,” but that it is also likely to “affect a wide range of curricula—including science and the study of important literature.”
The bill is intended to regulate material used in sex education courses, but the language is so imprecise about what is considered “objectionable” material that it might be used to target books used in other courses. Material as diverse as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and most works by Shakespeare could be flagged for “sexual content.”
The bill would have an immediate affect on sex ed comics such as Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf by Saiya Miller and Liza Bley and Stuff About Sex by David Mellon. Similar to the aforementioned impact on literature, the bill could prove an obstacle to work like Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, and Ariel Schrag’s autobiographical high school tetralogy, Awkward, Definition, Potential, and Likewise.
Given the possible objections that could be raised against educational materials beyond sex education, the bill could undermine education in New Hampshire and encourage the avoidance of any material concerning sexuality. As NCAC writes, “Singling out a certain type of content for parental notification inevitably creates a biased perspective and casts a negative light on the material regardless of its educational value. HB 103 is thus likely to privilege the concerns of parents who wish to shield their children from sexual content over other parents and the professional judgment of educators.”
The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, National Council of Teachers of English, American Booksellers for Free Expression, and PEN America also signed NCAC’s letter, which can be read in full below.