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NH Education

Ban on social emotional learning voted down by N.H. House panel

While the bill will still go before the full New Hampshire House, Tuesday’s 19-1 vote shows strong bipartisan disapproval of the proposal to prohibit public schools from incorporating the popular behavioral management program

CONCORD, N.H. – Lawmakers on the New Hampshire House Education committee recommended killing a proposal to ban social emotional learning in New Hampshire public schools in a 19-1 vote Tuesday.

Representative Mike Belcher, a Wakefield Republican, was the lone dissenting vote.

House Bill 1473 drew hours of testimony at a public hearing in early February, when teachers, counselors, and school administrators spoke about the importance of social emotional learning, a program to teach children behavioral management strategies for dealing with emotions, such as breathing exercises.

Some parents expressed concern that teachers were overstepping the boundaries of their role that should be left to families, while the bill’s sponsor, Representative John Sellers, a Bristol Republican, suggested that social emotional learning was a tool for indoctrinating students. The Education Committee did not consider an amended version of the bill offered by Sellers.

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The Education Committee Chairman Rick Ladd, a Haverhill Republican, invoked his experience as a former teacher, principal, and school administrator when voting against the bill.

“Everything a kid should know is learned and taught in kindergarten,” he said. “And that means having to work together, collaborate together, respect the other person that’s coming in and out of the door. And that’s all social interaction.”

“When the teacher is talking, you don’t sit there, you know, gabbing with a friend,” he continued. “That’s a social skill. And it’s also a necessary skill in order to learn. So this is why I’m opposing the passage of this bill.”

Representative Mel Myler, a Contoocook Democrat, said the breadth of people testifying on the bill was the greatest he had seen in 12 years serving on the Education Committee. And, he said, businesses are looking for the skills students learn through social emotional learning.

“One of the things that the business people say (is) that we need to have people who can communicate with one another, who can deal with one another,” he said, noting his agreement that the bill should be stopped.

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The committee also voted unanimously against a proposal, House Bill 1356, to block public school employees from using students’ preferred names and pronouns unless they had parental permission to do so.

Both bills will go to the full House for a vote on the committee’s recommendation.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.