Paige Leads “Read-In” Protest at State House

CONCORD — Protesters sat quietly outside the New Hampshire Senate room on Wednesday, reading books. 

They were there to show opposition to an amendment attached to House Bill 1311 that bill sponsor Rep. David Paige, D-Concord, said would turn it into a “book banning bill.”

As originally written, HB1311, also known as the “Students’ Freedom to Read Bill,” would’ve required school boards to adopt transparent and clear procedures for addressing book removal requests, and that those policies could not exclude books based solely on an author or subjects’ identity as a member in a protected class like race or sexual orientation. 

On the Senate floor, Sen. Timothy Lang, R-Sanbornton, introduced the amendment.

“As amended by the Senate Education Committee, House Bill 1311 provides a uniform collection reconsideration process for school libraries and media centers,” said Lang. “Materials should not be prescribed or procured primarily based on the author’s sex, or subject’s sex, age, gender identity, race, creed, origin, orientation, or disability. Further, the material’s procurement cannot be predicated on a given viewpoint.”

Paige said the changes of adding the word “primarily” and expanding the bill to the procurement of materials would open the door for discriminatory reasons to be considered as factors in the exclusion of the materials, as long as it’s not the “primary” reason, as well as make it harder for educators to develop inclusive collections.

“Let’s imagine you have an immigrant community that’s come to your city. What this bill, if it passes as amended, will say is you can’t choose to buy a book specifically because you want better representation of that new immigrant community in your town,” said Paige. “That disservices every student, the immigrant student who’s trying to see themselves in the curriculum and the collection, but it also disservices all the other students in the school who need to get to know their new neighbors.”

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