AFT-New Hampshire Tells Federal Court Its Lawsuit Against Divisive Concepts Law Should Proceed

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For Immediate Release- September 14, 2022

Contact: Deb Howes,



AFT-New Hampshire Tells Federal Court Its Lawsuit Against Divisive Concepts Law Should Proceed

CONCORD, N.H.—AFT-New Hampshire urged a federal court today to allow its federal lawsuit against the so-called divisive concepts law to proceed, arguing the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates teachers’ and students’ free speech rights.

According to the lawsuit, AFT-NH contends the “Right to Freedom from Discrimination in Public Workplaces and Education” law violates teachers’ free speech rights when teaching, as well as students’ First Amendment rights not to have censored instruction block their right to learn. The state has asked the U.S. District Court in Concord to dismiss AFT-NH’s lawsuit and a similar one by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Teachers started this school year under a cloud of fear; they’re frightened they could lose their teaching credentials if someone questions how they are teaching accurate historical concepts. They shouldn’t be intimidated into avoiding certain subjects out of fear. The law is so unclear that teachers have no idea what they can safely teach. No teacher should be forced to shy away from teaching the truth,” said AFT-NH President Deb Howes. “Educators are focused on what kids need, but we need support, not smears, from Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut and others who are behind this law.”

In its lawsuit filed in December 2021, AFT-NH said the divisive concepts law is unconstitutionally vague and contradicts the U.S. Constitution and a state law mandating that public school curriculum include the teaching of accurate, honest history and social studies. It said the law is so ambiguous that it is nearly impossible for teachers to follow it, making them “highly susceptible” to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

AFT-NH asked the court to allow its lawsuit against the state statute to proceed. It said the state’s argument to dismiss the lawsuit is based “on the unsupported premise that the state has unfettered discretion to restrict teachers’ speech inside and outside the classroom.” It also said the state’s argument is filled with “baseless procedural assertions” while not providing a substantial and meaningful response to AFT-NH’s allegations.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, a former civics teacher, called out this law and other attacks on public school teachers across the country.

“Teachers are doing everything in their power to provide their students with the best education possible, while facing extremist attacks, smears and laws that politicize our schools and put teachers’ careers at risk. New Hampshire’s legislators should be focusing on providing the state’s students and teachers with the resources and supports they need to learn, recover and thrive, but instead they’re passing laws to villainize and intimidate teachers and deny students their right to an accurate, honest education,” Weingarten said.

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