AFT hits right-wing bounty offer targeting NH teachers
“Putting bounties on the heads of New Hampshire teachers, much like the controversial vigilante bounties envisioned by Texas to thwart the legal right to reproductive choice, is offensive and chilling in any context,” said Randy Weingarten, AFT president and a civics teacher who also has a law degree. | Andrew Harnik/AP

WASHINGTON —A right-wing group’s offer of a $500 bounty for turning in New Hampshire teachers who instruct students about racism and sexism, and especially critical race theory, has angered the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and upset the state’s School Administrators affiliate, too.

The controversy in the Granite State has mushroomed so much that even GOP Gov. Chris Sununu says bounties are wrong.

The brouhaha began in the heavily Republican state legislature. It passed a law, over Sununu’s objections, banning the teaching of “divisive subjects,” such as critical race theory, racism, sexism, or “injustice against marginalized groups.”

The theory, which is only discussed in college and university graduate seminars, has become a favorite radical right issue. Virginia GOP Gov.-Elect Glenn Youngkin used it as a goad to drive Trumpites to the polls in his upset win in the 2021 election.

Then, in New Hampshire, the right-wing turned things weird, by offering the bounty to the first person who turns in a teacher “violator” to the state Human Rights Commission.

State Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, following that law, had put up a website encouraging residents to file the complaints. And a right-wing group, the New Hampshire affiliate of the so-called “Moms For Liberty,” ran with it.

In an echo of Youngkin’s campaign slogan, that group says it “is dedicated to unifying, educating & empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”

“We’ve got $500 for the person that first successfully catches a public school teacher breaking this law,”  the group tweeted. “Students, parents, teachers, school staff… We want to know! We will pledge anonymity if you want.” A later tweet called the money “CRT bounties.”

Another right-wing group, calling itself “The Free State” followed with its own tweet: “Public school teachers that teach critical race theory in New Hampshire will now lose their jobs and licenses,” it cheered. None actually teach it.

AFT President Randi Weingarten flagged the Moms for Liberty tweet and took a shot at Edelblut’s website, too. She compared this $500 bounty for turning in teachers to Texas’s $10,000 bounty for anyone who sues people who help women seek reproductive choice.

The School Administrators said such attacks could drive teachers out of schools.

“Our state is at a turning point. Do we allow these attacks to continue to drive good, caring teachers and administrators away from our schools? Do we value our schools as the community assets they are or are they merely the Commissioner’s political punching bags?” the state affiliate of that union said in a statement.

“Putting bounties on the heads of New Hampshire teachers, much like the controversial vigilante bounties envisioned by Texas to thwart the legal right to reproductive choice, is offensive and chilling in any context,” said Weingarten, a civics teacher who also has a law degree.

“The New Hampshire bounty effort is a result of a state law that bans something that doesn’t happen in New Hampshire or anywhere else—teaching that any group is inherently superior or inferior to another. We teach honest history and respect for all.

“The stakes are high: Unjustified accusations against teachers could cost them their teaching licenses. The clear intent is to undermine public education and scare teachers.”

In interviews with New Hampshire media, Edelblut offered mild criticism of the right-wing group’s tweets. Sununu’s spokesman was more outspoken.

“I would encourage people to be very careful on social media,” Edelblut said. “There’s a lot of rhetoric on social media that is not helpful or constructive.”

Sununu’s spokesman e-mailed: “The governor condemns the tweet referencing ‘bounties’ and any sort of financial incentive is wholly inappropriate and has no place.”

But Sununu previously endorsed state budget language to “prohibit teaching children that they are inferior, racist, sexist or oppressive by virtue of their race, gender or other characteristics,” the state’s media also reported.

Weingarten’s comment on the commissioner’s response: “Perhaps Edelblut’s judgment should lead him to a different line of work.

“We need school leadership that believes in safe and welcoming environments, not fear and division… Teachers shouldn’t have to worry that history, literature, science, or art lessons can be misconstrued and lead to a public flogging or worse,” she concluded.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

Comments

comments