Legislation aims to prohibit teaching systemic racism, sexism in public schools

Hugo Balta

New Hampshire Republicans are pushing a plan to restrict certain kinds of diversity training and education in a budget trailer bill.

The GOP-controlled Senate approved a two-year $13.5 billion budget last week that includes a provision prohibiting teaching “divisive concepts” about systemic racism and sexism in public schools and state-funded programs. The House version of the budget that was approved in April -didn’t include the changes. 

The move is being met with strong opposition.

“We cannot simply close our eyes, ban the training of critical concepts like implicit bias and equity, and claim issues of systemic racial injustice have never existed,” Devon Chaffee, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire said in an interview with The Center Square. “These types of trainings are critical to creating inclusive and equitable workplaces and communities.”

“I cannot imagine, for the institutions that are supposed to be mandated by it, how they’re going to navigate this, and I’m afraid what’s going to happen is they’re going to stop talking about it altogether,” Eva Castillo, of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, told WMUR.

The “divisive concepts” provision mirrors an executive order issued last year by then-Republican President Donald Trump. That order was rescinded by President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley stresses the newest version of the controversial anti-critical-race-theory bill does not stop teachers from teaching about racism in American history, nor does it prohibit public employers from hosting diversity training programs.

The amendment he says prevents government entities from teaching that people are inherently oppressive because of their “immutable characteristics” – be it their race, gender, sexual orientation, and more – and it bans them from teaching that some groups have inherent social advantages.

Governor Chris Sununu has championed diversity and inclusion efforts while indicating that this latest version of the “divisive concepts” language could be on its way to gaining his support.

“My message is, ‘Governor, put your money where your mouth is,’” Castillo said.