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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Board makes best of tough situations

NASHUA – Local parents who object to their child’s curriculum will work with the building principal to find an alternative, but they can appeal to Superintendent Mark Conrad and the Board of Education as well.

Those levels of appeal were the only major changes adopted by the board Monday night, when they unanimously approved the parental objection policy to comply with the new state law.

The controversial law was passed in January and allows parents to opt their children out of any classroom material they find objectionable.

It also requires parents to provide a suitable alternative that meets state standards, as well as cover any associated costs.

One of the problems during policy committee discussion was finding the proper appeals process, should the building principal and parents disagree on an alternative, said board member Thomas Vaughan.

“This law is silent on any sort of appeal,” he said.

The board decided it was fair to allow parents the opportunity to appeal their alternative to Conrad and the board, if necessary.

“Providing an appeal to the superintendent and to the board is providing a little more leeway for parents than the law expresses,” Vaughan said.

However, board member Bill Mosher amended the policy to make the Board of Education’s decision final, should the parent appeal a rejection to the board.

The Nashua policy passed Monday reflects the legal obligations, such as cost being attributed to the parent, but adds one addition as well.

“It cannot cost the district any additional funds, and it also cannot create any undue burden for the teacher,” Vaughan said.

The School District policy also makes it clear that should a child complete an alternative course material, the parents are responsible for the paperwork that would show the state standards have been met.

Several of the board members disagreed with the law itself but adopted the policy anyway because it is now required by all school districts in New Hampshire.

“I don’t particularly like the law on which it’s based, but we’re required by law to do so,” said board member Dennis Ryder. “It’s a good policy, and we did pretty well dissecting this thing.”

David Murotake agreed, noting the heated back-and-forth and controversy surrounding the law.

He congratulated the policy committee for coming to an agreement in short time – discussing the policy over two meetings in the course of a month.

“There was a lot of potential contention but the policy committee did a very good job,” Murotake said.

In policy discussion, the committee also looked at the policies adopted in other nearby school districts and the sample policy provided by the New Hampshire School Boards Association.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or ckittle@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Kittle on Twitter (@Telegraph_CamK).