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Nashua District BOE approves ‘Choose Love’

NASHUA – “This whole program is nothing but feminization of boys, an alarming trend in education today. Let me repeat this. I believe social emotional learning is a deliberate program to feminize boys.”

Despite these comments from former Nashua Board of Aldermen member Fred Teeboom during the Wednesday Board of Education meeting, BOE members voted 7-2 to approve the “Choose Love” social- emotional learning pilot program.

The curriculum was developed by a mother of one of 26 victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

As noted on the official Jesse Lewis Choose Love website: “The goal of the Choose Love Enrichment Program is to provide children with the knowledge, attitude, and skills they need to choose love in any situation. These abilities include:

• Understanding and managing emotions;

• Setting and achieving positive goals;

• Feeling and showing empathy and compassion for others;

• Establishing and maintaining positive relationships; and

• Making responsible decisions.

The curriculum is free, publicly available online and is aligned with Common Core state standards. The program was endorsed by Gov. Chris Sununu in a letter that was sent to school administrators on May 13.

Implementation of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement was one of his Task Force recommendations.

Two residents spoke against the recommendation during the board’s public comment period. Teeboom questioned that if there was no time for instructing cursive writing, how teachers would make time to teach the curriculum proposed.

Teeboom said he reviewed curriculum committee minutes and watched the video presented to the board by Scarlett Lewis about Social Emotional Learning.

“About an hour into the video, when grade school kids are asked what they think about this program, a boy I’d say is about 10 years old says, ‘I thought courage is a knight in shining armor, but now I know that courage means helping others, not yourself.’ How wrong can that be?” Teeboom asked. “How brainwashed can a little kid be?”

Nashua resident Bob Duffy was also not in favor of the recommended approval.

“People have complained that measuring character traits of kids that young cannot necessarily result in true understanding of what they’re going to be like later in life,” Duffy said.

He gave an example of a student who talks too much in class in kindergarten, which he said may hold them back later in life.

“I think it should be investigated a little bit further. I don’t think it should be forced on the entire school system just yet. There has been a lot of controversy with this,” Duffy said.

Later in the meeting, board member Doris Hohensee moved to amend the motion on the floor, and to postpone approval of ‘Choosing Love’ or any social emotional learning program, until such proposal includes an opt-out provision.

“Currently, there is no opt-out provision for parents if they find this program objectionable because choosing love is designed to be interwoven into the curriculum,” she said.

She also said, “If a student holds politically incorrect beliefs, that student will be marked down for being anti-social or even ‘bigoted.’ Those records will follow the child from school to school, and will be noted on college entrance recommendations. Social emotional learning is designed to be manipulative while preaching tolerance.”

In response to Hohensee’s motion and comments, Board President Heather Raymond said it was a profound misunderstanding of the program. She invited all parents and anyone with concerns to visit the Choose Love website. She also referenced a current policy, which allows parental objection to specific course materials if necessary.

Board member Ray Guarino made the point that this is just a pilot program.

“This is about our teachers researching ways to deal with some students – not all students, but some students,” Guarino said. “I trust administration and I trust our teachers that they are doing the right thing for our children and I think we ought to trust them.”

In other business, the board voted to unanimously on a number of contracts, including an $847,000 special education contract with Clark Associates, which covers the costs of occupational therapy services for special education students, along with a $233,000 contract with ABC Physical Therapy, which covers physical therapy services for special education services.

The board also voted unanimously to award contracts with Hudson Paving for paving work to be done at Amherst Street Elementary School, Mount Pleasant Elementary School, Nashua High School North and Broad Street Elementary School.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.