Federal judge rules New Hampshire law limiting teaching of race, gender topics unconstitutional

A federal judge in New Hampshire struck down a New Hampshire law that limited public schools’ teaching of race and gender topics, ruling the law is unconstitutional Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Paul J. Barbadoro’s decision is the first in the nation to overturn such a measure for kindergarten through 12th grade public schools, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Hampshire said Tuesday.

The state law sought to curb New Hampshire public schools from discussing “divisive concepts” related to race or sex, banning K-12 students from being “taught, instructed, inculcated or compelled to express belief in, or support for” the idea they are “inherently superior” to others based on their race, religion, gender identity or other characteristic.

The law was passed in June 2021 in response to President Biden’s revoking of former President Trump’s executive order that sought to halt federal funding training based on “anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.”

Barbadoro’s Tuesday ruling stated the law — with its education amendments — is “unconstitutionally vague.”

“The Amendments are viewpoint-based restrictions on speech that do not provide either fair warning to educators of what they prohibit or sufficient standards for law enforcement to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement,” Barbadoro wrote. “Thus, the Amendments violate the [14th Amendment] to the U.S. Constitution.”

Barbadoro further said the amendments failed to establish “minimal guidelines” for the enforcement of law, leaving enforcers relying on New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s “personal opinions on what is appropriate instruction, as expressed in his op-ed articles.”

Tuesday’s ruling was in response to a case that consolidated two lawsuits filed against Frank Edelblut, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education, that received the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers.

“The Court’s ruling today is a victory for academic freedom and an inclusive education for all New Hampshire students,” Gilles Bissonnette, legal director of the ACLU of New Hampshire, said in a statement.

Megan Tuttle, the president of the New Hampshire chapter of the NEA, said families, students and educators should “rejoice” over the ruling, arguing it “restores the teaching of truth and the right to learn.”

The Hill reached out to Edelblut and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s (R) office for comment.

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