New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) apologized to fourth grade students at the Lincoln Akerman School Tuesday for the rude behavior shown to them by some of the state’s lawmakers earlier in the month.
As seacoastonline.com reports, the governor met with the children to show her support for them despite the fact that some state legislators made offensive comments to them when the students presented them with a “bill” to make the red-tailed hawk the state’s official bird of prey.
The fourth-graders’s bill was sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D) and made it through a House committee and onto the House floor several weeks ago, where it was killed by a vote of 160-133.
Some of the lawmakers joked about the bill while it was being debated, making ridiculing comments that the students’s principal Mark Deblois said negatively affected the children. State Rep. John Burt (R), for example, remarked the raptor bill would next lead to a “state hot dog.”
Rep. Warren Groen (R) commented that the raptor kills its victims by grasping “them with its talons and then uses its razor-sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds, to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”
According to wmur.com, Deblois said some of the parents told him their children asked what Planned Parenthood was and what it had to do with hawks.
“None of the kids got those [abortion] references,” he said. “Fortunately they didn’t, because it’s such a disgusting reference. But certainly that led to questions about what did that mean.”
“Obviously, they were disappointed that their bill didn’t pass, but it was just the manner in which they say the bill was debated, when they saw people stand up and say these just appalling things,” Deblois continued. “That [the abortion reference] was probably less than the gentlemen who stood up and made jokes. That was almost more upsetting to them because they understood those references. ‘Why didn’t they take us seriously? Why were people laughing?'”
Groen, however, took his critics to task for being infuriated by his remarks, but not by abortion itself.
“The gallery is open to the public, and there are children in the gallery every day,” he said. “I don’t know if we should limit free speech or limit the attendance in the gallery. It seems either one would be bad for transparency in government.”
“We felt that the way the adults behaved was not appropriate,” Hassan told the students during her visit. “We wouldn’t want our own bills to be discussed the way they discussed your bill, they shouldn’t treat other adults like that and they shouldn’t treat you like that.”
The students also received a letter of apology from New Hampshire Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper (R), who praised the children for the research they conducted on the bill.
“I would also like to take a moment to apologize on behalf of my colleagues in the House for the inappropriate comments that were made during the debate of your bill,” Jasper wrote in his letter. “They were unnecessary and crossed the line of decorum that I expect from our members. I hope you will not take this in any way as a reflection upon the effort that you put into the project.”