NH Parent Arrested for Protesting Graphic Sex Content in School Assignment
The father of a 14-year-old girl was arrested at a New Hampshire school board meeting after protesting a reading assignment that contained sexually explicit material.
Attorney William Baer, father of a teen at Gilford High School in Gilford, New Hampshire, was speaking out against the assignment of the book Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.
According to WND, the book contains explicit descriptions of sexual encounters and mentally and sexually abusive situations, as well as a mass murder in a school.
One example of the sexually explicit material in the book that raised alarm among parents appears on page 313, where teenaged characters engage in sex in a way that is portrayed as forced and explicitly described.
Mr. Baer maintained that the school should have alerted parents to the contents of the book before it was assigned, which apparently had been done at the school in the past.
During the meeting called to discuss the concern that several parents had over the contents of the book, Baer tried to read the passage above but members of the school board refused to allow him to do so when he violated a two-minute rule for speakers.
"Sir, would you please be respectful of the other people?" one school board member demanded.
Baer replied to that demand for "respectfulness" by saying, "Like you’re respectful of my daughter, right?"
Another parent, Sarah Carrignan, told local media that she was "utterly appalled" that the book was assigned to her son. "My son should never have had the book in his hand," she said.
Baer said that his wife was shocked when she discovered that her daughter had been given "a novel with this kind of graphic sex described" as an English class assignment to read.
Baer organized the meeting of parents to protest the book.
"We met at 1 p.m. yesterday. I told him that my daughter had the book in her hands for a week and I never got a notice from the school asking my permission for her to read it. He said it was an oversight because the book has been on the school’s class reading list since it came out in 2007. I explained that I felt I should have gotten a notice where I could have opted-out from my daughter having to read the book."
Baer said the book "goes on-on-on after the sex scene, talking about the girl getting pregnant and wanting to have an abortion."
"So, I went to the school board meeting to complain that the school never gave me a chance to say I didn’t want my 14-year-old daughter reading a book like this that I consider to be pornographic."
During the heated discussion a police officer appeared and forced Baer to stop speaking. The parent was physically removed from the meeting and then handcuffed.
After her father was physically removed from the meeting, Baer's daughter, Marina, stepped up to speak out for her father.
"I just watched my father get arrested because he broke the two minute rule at a Board of Education Meeting. This just shows that you resort to force at the first turn of conflict and I'm appalled," Marina Baer said.
Sources in New Hampshire say that the two-minute open floor rule was invented for this particular meeting.
School principal Kent Hemingway and board chair Sue Allen defended the book, saying it was "thematically important" because the novel explores a school shooting, bullying, date rape, and sexual abuse.
Still, Allen issued an apology to parents. "The board apologizes for the discomfort of those impacted and for the failure of the school district to send home prior notice of assignment of the novel," she said in a statement.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.