Home > Essays > No Surprise in THIS Headline: “Divisive Concepts” Clarifications Leave Much Still Unclear

No Surprise in THIS Headline: “Divisive Concepts” Clarifications Leave Much Still Unclear

July 22, 2021

Unsurprisingly, the NH Commissioner of Education was unable to reduce to writing how the recently enacted “divisive concepts” bill will be implemented by school districts in 2021-22. Annemarie Timmons’ article on the release of Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s “guidance” on the topic included these nebulous and contradictory descriptions:

Public school educators will not be violating the state’s new “divisive concepts” law if their lessons on slavery, the civil rights movement and the treatment of marginalized people leave some students feeling “uncomfortable,” according to guidance issued Wednesday evening by the state Attorney General’s Office.

“It is important to note that education related to racism, sexism, and other practices or beliefs that have harmed or continue to harm certain identified groups may make students, faculty, or parents uncomfortable,” the guidance said. “These lessons may encourage or prompt students to reflect upon whether and how racism, sexism, or other practices have or have not affected their lives. Even discussion of historical practices and their lingering impact upon different identified groups can cause this discomfort.”

So… it’s OK for some students to experience “discomfort”. BUT… 

the Attorney General’s Office did not say how or whether implicit bias — which is at the center of many cases of discrimination — can be included in discussions.

AND to make matters worse– or less clear: 

A student or parent who believes an educator has violated the new law can file a complaint with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights, the Attorney General’s Office or file a lawsuit in superior court.An educator who violates the law may face disciplinary action by the State Board of Education.

The guidance does not say how claims will be investigated.

The bottom line is as I predicted in an earlier op ed: in the best case the definition of “divisive concepts” will be determined by administrative and/or School Board actions and, in the worst case, by some star chamber proceeding at the State level. All I can say is YEESH! 

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