House GOP leader seeks to extend controversial teaching ban to colleges

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Jan. 11—CONCORD — The debate over a ban on teaching controversial concepts in public schools shifted to higher education Tuesday.

House Education Committee Chairman Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, said college professors in other parts of the country have committed some of the most overt attempts to indoctrinate their students with the view that Whites are inherently racist.

He claimed that is why he proposed legislation (HB 1313) to extend a ban on teaching divisive concepts to public colleges and universities in New Hampshire.

"I don't think you should be tagged or anyone in this room should be tagged racist because of your country's past," Ladd said in testifying for his bill.

Representatives of two- and four-year colleges warned that a ban could silence debate on campus.

"We're very interested in not curbing the free exchange of ideas that are critical to thinking in higher education," said Shannon Reid, director of government relations for the Community College System of New Hampshire.

Tom Cronin, University of New Hampshire government relations director, said faculty members adhere to ethical principles that don't allow attempts to indoctrinate students.

The Republican-led Legislature attached what it called a Right to Freedom from Discrimination and Public Workplaces and Education to the two-year state budget trailer bill that Gov. Chris Sununu signed last June.

It bans teaching in elementary and secondary schools that any individual, by virtue of his or her race and sex, is "inherently racist" or the teaching that one race or sex is "inherently superior" to another.

Supporters point out it doesn't ban discussing in public schools "as part of a larger course of academic instruction, the historical existence of ideas and subjects" such as racism.

The law faces two suits in federal courts by the state's two largest teachers unions, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire and other supportive groups.

The suits charge that definitions in the law about what can't be taught are unconstitutionally vague and have led to teachers self-censoring the use of some books for fear their licenses to teach could be taken away.

Devon Chaffee, executive director of the ACLU-NH, said the federal courts have a more than a 60-year history of giving great latitude to academic freedom in colleges.

"This is about censorship. At universities, we should allow topics to be discussed even those we don't agree with," she said.

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