“I TOLD THEM WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO”
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 8, 2014) — At slightly after 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, The Post & Email spoke with William Baer, the father who was arrested after protesting the assignment of a book containing adult material to his 14-year-old honor student daughter in Gilford, NH.
Specifically, Baer and other parents at the meeting objected to page 313 of the book “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, which was assigned this year for the third time since 2007. Lt. James Leach arrested Baer after he allegedly violated a two-minute speaking time limit imposed by the school board chaired by Susan Allen.
Baer told The Post & Email that he has been giving dozens of interviews since the story broke on Monday evening, which has received both national and international coverage.
About nine months ago, Baer moved his family from New Jersey to Gilford close to Lake Winnipesaukee with the expectation of being able to “recreate” in an area “an hour from the ocean,” and “an hour and a half from the Acadia border.” “We bought a house literally across the street from the lake,” Baer said. “Of everywhere in the country, this is what we chose. It’s a beautiful area. Everything on balance, we looked at every state and ruled some in and ruled some out. It seemed as if it was the right move for this time.” He added, “At 50 years old, I had to come to New Hampshire to get arrested at a school board meeting…it’s just hard for me to process. It’s indicative of where things are moving.”
“You don’t get this this kind of press coverage and this kind of response unless it’s striking something with the population that very few things have,” Baer told us. “I know where I’m going with this.”
The Post & Email asked Baer how many interviews he has done since his arrest, to which he responded, “I lost count of the radio interviews. I’ve been on television four or five times already. Tonight will be four, and a national Toronto television station wants me to do a program with them. NBC in New York called me; I haven’t even spoken to them yet. Nancy Grace called me. It’s obviously resonating.”
He believes that his arrest is a significant First Amendment violation which needs to be confronted. “This is enormous,” he said.
The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Post & Email informed Baer that the Union Leader appears to have removed its article from the web or moved it, which surprised him.
Baer said his family does not watch television and he therefore is “not monitoring” coverage of the story.
Also on Thursday, The Post & Email contacted the Gilford Department of Education for a statement on the incident. While we were told they do not have a “press person,” the woman who answered the phone took our information and said she would relay it to the superintendent of schools.
Baer affirmed to The Post & Email that a video uploaded to YouTube is, in fact, of his daughter responding to his arrest.
The Post & Email asked if Baer had ever had a negative encounter with a school board, to which he responded, “There have been disagreements with schools, but nothing even remotely like this. I don’t even know if I’ve been in a school board meeting; I’d have to think about it.”
“Did your daughter end up reading the book?” we asked Baer, to which he replied:’
She read about 30 pages of it. Also, there was a 19-page questionnaire that went with the book with about 150 or 200 questions that they were supposed to answer in addition to discussion questions. Supposedly, this is her teacher’s favorite book; she loves it; she’s read it a bunch of times, and it’s my understanding that that page was even read out loud by the teacher. This is a mature woman who is actually retiring this year.
“But the school board wouldn’t read it out loud at the meeting,” The Post & Email said, to which Baer responded:
They wouldn’t read it out loud, and the reason they gave was that they don’t take any questions; they don’t have any input; the process is “You speak, say what you want…”
Somebody did end up reading it out loud; we will have a video up of a guy reading it. I don’t know if was 100%, but it was most of it, I think. So it was read; it’s not as if they said, “You can’t read it;” that would have been insanely, obviously criminal; but they would not themselves read it. And I wanted them to read it. I didn’t want to read it; I wanted them to read it. They refused to, and my two minutes was spent arguing with them.
“Are you going to keep your kids in public school?” The Post & Email inquired.
I don’t know. They’re in ninth and tenth grade [respectively]. The reality is, we don’t want to and can’t really afford $20,000 or $30,000 a year for them to go to private school and to drive them all around to get them there. We’ve looked into it, and it’s hard enough doing this.
“How about home-schooling?”
We’ve considered it. I couldn’t be the one to do it, as it’s over my head. My son is very much into math, and 90% of the time, I don’t know what he’s talking about. They’re both really smart. It would be like a remedial class…the stuff that I had nightmares about in high school. I can’t do it.
Baer said he does not yet have a copy of the police report from Monday night.
The Post & Email also contacted former New Hampshire state representative Harry Accornero to ask if Gilford was located in the district he served from 2011-2012, to which he responded:
No, that is the next town over, but I think William Baer’s arrest was uncalled for. This is still America and we still have freedom of speech (at least this week). He did not resist the officer, he just walked out of the meeting and was arrested and handcuffed by the office. If anyone should be arrested it should be that officer and the Gilford NH. School board for allowing that book to be read by under age children….My question is where is the outrage from the people of NH. and the Christian community??? This is just another example of Common Core taking away parental right and telling students that the state knows better. As I’m sure you and your readers know this has been going on for awhile across the country…When will the American People wake up and end this take over of America…..I pray for my children and grandchildren. This is no longer the America I grew up in.
Baer told The Post & Email that the controversial Common Core State Standards to which Accornero referred have been implemented in Gilford.
Baer then shared the following:
There’s every indication that that two-minute rule was put in place for me, for that evening. If you look at the videotape carefully, there were very few people there. The applause was not a lot, which indicated very few people. When Sherry asked for comments, you can see people just sitting there. Nobody got up until I finally got up after at least ten seconds of dead silence, which indicated that there was no need to impose a two-minute restriction on time. She made it sound as if she said, very specifically, that the reason was that there were “so many people who want to speak,” as if it was a meeting about health care and you had a line going to the microphone. That’s the picture she painted; it was 100% inaccurate as evidenced by the fact that nobody stood up and that very few speakers were captured on video. So that was all a pretext to impose a two-minute limit on me, because I told them what I was going to do.
It’s a prior restraint on speech. It’s a public forum, and it’s government action. They didn’t have an overwhelmingly important interest to do that. It’s a classic First Amendment violation.
I’ve had people here tell me that they have been trying to blow the lid off of what’s being going on here for 30 years, and they just keep getting hammered down.
“Are you saying that they had an indication of what you were going to say?”
They didn’t have an indication; they had specific notice of what was going to be spoken about, and every newspaper in the state and directly with my conversation with the principal. I am 100% positive that they knew what I was going to do. How’s that for an indication?
“So you spoke with the principal before you went to the meeting?”
I spoke to the principal Monday and I told him what I was going to do, and I asked him if he would read it, and that’s when he said he was uncomfortable reading it.
“So they knew you had a significant objection and they knew what you were going to do?
One hundred percent; no speculation; 100% they knew exactly what I was going to do. I said, “I’m going to stick the book in front of them and make them squirm.”
“And you think that’s why they imposed the two-minute limit?”
I’d say 100%. I have every indication that that was the reason, that they had actual notice that I was going to put the text in front of them and ask them to read it.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.