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Federal judge strikes down New Hampshire “divisive concepts” law

The language is similar to Alabama’s language prohibiting divisive concepts.

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A federal judge last week struck down a New Hampshire law prohibiting the teaching of certain divisive concepts, with similar language to a bill Alabama adopted into law mere months ago.

The New Hampshire law specifically prohibits public school students from being “taught, instructed, inculcated or compelled to express belief in, or support for…” the four listed divisive concepts.

That law defines four divisive concepts including the idea that no individual is inherently racist or sexist, and that no individual is inherently superior based on race, gender or sexual orientation.

“All told, the banned concepts speak only obliquely about the speech that they target and, in doing so, fail to provide teachers with much-needed clarity as to how the Amendments apply to the very topics that they were meant to address,” wrote U.S. District Judge Paul J. Barbadoro in his ruling.

“This lack of clarity sows confusion and leaves significant gaps that can only be filled in by those charged with enforcing the Amendments, thereby inviting arbitrary enforcement.”

Barbadoro describes the law as “fatally vague” and questions how the statute could be applied to teachers telling students about implicit biases, affirmative action and other topics. While the New Hampshire attorney general expressed that those topics would not violate the law, Barbadoro said the response only further supports the confounding nature of the language rather than support it.

Rep. Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, pushed for his “divisive concepts” law for three years, finally pushing it through with changes to also dismantle DEI programs in the state. The law goes beyond public education to prohibit these divisive concepts from being taught in state agencies as well.

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The law is currently in effect in Alabama.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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