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WHILE OBJECTING TO “CONTROVERSIAL MATERIAL” IN HIGH SCHOOL READING CURRICULUM
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 7, 2014) — On Monday evening, a Gilford, New Hampshire parent of a high school student was arrested after voicing concern about reading material assigned to his child’s ninth-grade honors English class.
Other parents were also visibly upset at the meeting with Board of Education members at the Gilford Elementary School.
The book in question, “Nineteen Minutes,” by Jody Picoult, is a fictional work about bullying leading to a school shooting in New Hampshire. The book was published in 2006 and has reportedly been used in three different years by Gilford High School since 2007.
The Gilford school system has a policy whereby parents are notified of graphic material in their children’s proposed assignments before it is distributed, but in this case, the school board admitted its failure to follow that policy.
The mission of the Gilford school system is stated as “in partnership with the community, to actively engage all students in a broad range of educational opportunities that enables them to make responsible choices and succeed throughout life in a changing society.”
One parent attending the meeting commented that the inclusion of controversial reading material resulted in “cheating the kids out [sic] a chance to put real literature, real education in front of them. This is garbage…”
Baer’s family recently relocated to New Hampshire from New Jersey.
The story was picked up by national news outlets, including the Fox News Channel. Baer appeared on “The Kelly File” with Megyn Kelly on Wednesday evening, and a video of the incident was shown on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday morning. The incident has also made international news.
Baer had spoken out, apparently out of turn, and ridiculed the Board of Education’s pleas for him to stop speaking. “Sir, would you please be respectful of the other people…?” a woman’s voice asked as Baer said, “Why don’t you have me arrested…a nice First Amendment lesson?” as an officer hovered close by. He claimed that the book does not show respect to his children. The officer approached him and asked him to leave. Baer remained seated until the policeman took one of his wrists and led him out of the room, followed by about a half-dozen people, some with video-cameras.
As the policeman was handcuffing him, Baer can be heard saying, “My arm is messed up” while hesitating to place it behind his back. The officer disregarded Baer’s comment and completed the handcuffing.
On Wednesday afternoon, The Post & Email contacted the Gilford Police Department, whose telephone responder said that there was no media person available to provide a comment to us. However, she promptly faxed us a press release signed by the arresting officer, Lt. James Leach, who is reportedly the acting police chief in Gilford.
An “informational statement” released by the Gilford Board of Education following Monday night’s meeting indicated that for the next school year, the policy on “controversial material” will be altered so that parents would not be “required” to accept such material on behalf of their children and that notifications to parents of the use of controversial reading assignments would be more specific as to their content.
A news report, however, suoted quoted Gilford Schools Superintendent Kent Hemingway as having said, “There are always alternate reading assignments available to students.”
Atty. Baer did not respond to two email requests from The Post & Email for an interview as of press time.
According to available statistics, the percentage of children who are home-schooled in the United States increased 1.5% between 2007 and 2013. The implementation of the Common Core curriculum in 2013 has reportedly caused more parents to home-school their children, with many parents upset over graphic adult material in the new “English” standards.
The motto of the state of New Hampshire is “Live Free or Die.”
This story was updated at 8:18 a.m. on Thursday, May 8, 2014.