By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — A policy on “parental objections to specific course material” was among the changes the Shaker Regional School Board took up on Tuesday evening.
The internal policy committee had recommended the change to conform to a law that became effective on June 16, requiring two weeks’ notice to parents and legal guardians when the curriculum course material provides “instruction of human sexuality or human sexual education.”
Gov. John Sununu signed the legislation which is similar to a bill Gov. Maggie Hassan had vetoed in 2015. It also provides that, “To the extent practicable, a school district shall make curriculum course materials available to parents or legal guardians for review upon request.”
A technical advisory from the New Hampshire Department of Education states, “Simply sending a notice home with a student may not be sufficient to achieve the legislative intent as districts will want to, as much as possible, avoid circumstances in which a school asserts that it provided notice and the parent or legal guardian disputes this assertion.”
The advisory also states, “Strong policies will include multiple modes of notification to provide sufficient assurance that parents or legal guardians have been afforded the appropriate and timely notice that the law requires.” It suggests email, posting on a website, and a letter sent through a parent’s portal, as well as a handout for students to take home.
“Regardless of the exact methodologies that schools decide to utilize, the best method to reach that assurance would be to have some type of affirmative parental or legal guardian acknowledgement of receipt.”
The advisory also states, “It is important to note that the legislative intent of SB103 does not apply to literature or other content that might have or be perceived to have sexual content.” Nevertheless, “schools should exercise prudent judgment and err on the side of caution by providing advance notice... Additionally, if an outside agency or organization... recommends restrictions on content, schools should consider engaging parents before presenting that specific content to students.”
School Administrative Unit 80 Superintendent Michael Tursi said the Shaker policy addresses only human sexuality and human sexual education, and not literature.
The final approved version of Shaker’s policy was not available.
The Shaker Board has a two-step process for the approval of overnight field trips, asking departments or clubs to seek permission to plan the trips, then come back for final approval by the School Board.
Tursi said the purpose of the two-step policy is to avoid having a teacher or coach spend a lot of time organizing a field trip, only to find the School Board will not approve it. By providing information on what the trip may entail and getting permission to plan it, final approval is nearly guaranteed.
On Tuesday, board members gave a green light to three planning proposals: a Nature’s Classroom trip by Canterbury Elementary School and Belmont Middle School students to Ocean Park in Maine; a World Language and Music Department trip for high school students to observe the culture, history, and music of New Orleans, Louisiana; and a Spanish Club trip to look at the ecosystem, culture, and history of Costa Rica.