Following New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s recent approval of a restrictive new state bill limiting discussion of racism in schools and government agencies and imposing strict new anti-abortion policies on state citizens, more than half the members of his diversity and inclusion council have resigned in anger and protest.
HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel reported that last week, Sununu “signed House Bill 2, a policy-focused ‘trailer bill’ that passed along party lines in the GOP-controlled legislature. Among other provisions, the legislation bars public schools and government employees from teaching about systemic racism and bias. It also bans abortions beyond 24 weeks gestation, with exceptions only to save the life of the mother. Doctors who perform those abortions could face up to seven years in prison.”
After Sununu approved the motion, 10 of the 17 members of the state’s diversity and inclusion council resigned in protest, saying they could not go on in such a restrictive, biased and non-welcoming atmosphere.
In a letter addressed to the governor, the resigning members wrote: “It should not be taken lightly that nearly every member of the Council that is not part of your administration is resigning today, as we collectively see no path forward with this legislation in place.”
The letter went on to say that the governor was attempting to “censor conversations essential to advancing equity and inclusion in our state, specifically for those within our public education systems and all state employees.” Resigning members also added that the new legislation would “directly impact those who are working with some of our state’s most vulnerable populations, including educators, child welfare workers and law enforcement.”
“Governor, we feel obligated to inform you that ― contrary to your recent public statements ― systemic racism does, in fact, exist here in New Hampshire,” the letter concluded.
According to Terkel, the departing group of advisors includes “the executive director of the New Hampshire ACLU, educators, doctors and children’s advocates.” Terkel also noted that Sununu created the council back in 2017, with “a mission to ‘combat discrimination and advance the ends of diversity and inclusion.’”
In an interview with HuffPost, State Rep. Jim Maggiore, who was among the members resigning from the council, said he voted against the bill because he “could not in good conscience support language restricting the free speech of Granite Staters.”
“Part of the real danger of this bill ― and it may very well be the point of it ― is to cause people to censor themselves in having these important conversations about race because they fear facing a lawsuit,” said Devon Chaffee, executive director of the New Hampshire ACLU who also resigned from the council. “What this bill does is it allows individuals in communities to file legal complaints against their local school, or it allows a disgruntled employee who doesn’t want to do an equity training to file a complaint against their employer. It potentially subjects teachers to discipline.”
Chaffee told Terkel that the new policy “creates an environment of fear ― and we’re already seeing this ― where teachers do not know what they can talk about and what they can’t talk about in the classrooms, and where government employers do not know what they can require their employees to learn and engage in and what they can’t.”
Sadly, as HuffPost notes, New Hampshire is not alone in its racist and divisive antics attacking citizen’s rights and freedoms. Terkel reported that “Republican state legislators in dozens of states have been pushing legislation that would restrict how teachers can speak about race and bias, preventing them from talking about systemic racism and white privilege.”
Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.