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Local Issues

by webmaster last modified 2006-11-05 09:05 AM

Issues relevant to the residents of Hollis and Brookline, New Hampshire

This section deals with issues of rights related specifically to our local community--Hollis and Brookline, NH. You may not live in these towns, or even in New Hampshire, but we suspect that the issues described below are similar in many ways to those faced where you live.

The first four of these have to do with the Hollis-Brookline School District (SAU41), which seems to do a poor job when it comes to respecting the rights of individual students and parents of the district. Issues #5 and #6 affect all New Hampshire residents.

1. Free Speech
In November 2001, the school district violated the First Amendment rights of an 8th grade student at the Middle School by demanding that his home web site be taken off-line. Nationwide, courts have consistently found that students' home web sites are protected by the First Amendment, and can be regulated by schools only if they cause a "substantial disruption" of the educational process. Click here for more info.
2. The Equal Access Act (EAA)
This Federal law, in effect since 1984, provides for "equal access" for non-curriculum related groups or clubs in public secondary schools (high schools). In October 2001, Hollis Brookline High School junior Ashley Irvine (who founded a school chapter of Amnesty International the previous year) organized a peace rally in front of Nashua City Hall. However, she was not allowed to publicize the rally by hanging posters at the high school, according to Principal Bass, because, since the school is "an arm of the US government", he did not want to advertise an anti-war rally on the school walls. This appears to be in violation of the Equal Access Act, which guarantees "equal treatment" for all student-led clubs. Click here for more info.
3. Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)
This 1974 Federal Act provides parents (and students of post-secondary institutions) with important rights regarding public school records. The Act requires "effective annual notification" of parents of their rights under the law. None of the parents we contacted had ever seen this notification over the past several years, so in April 2002 we wrote to the Superintendent, asking what the district's policy was regarding this annual notification. Two weeks later the "annual" notification was published in small print in the back pages of the Hollis-Brookline Journal. And it appears that no notification has yet been made for the 2002-2003 school year. Click here for more info.
4. Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
This 1978 statute provides parents with important rights regarding potentially intrusive surveys conducted by public schools. The law as amended in January 2002 now requires parents be notified "directly" of their rights under the law, and that this should occur "at least annually, at the beginning of the school year". None of the parents we've contacted has ever seen a PPRA notification, and it apparently hasn't happened yet this year, either, despite the new requirement. Click here for more info.
5. Home Inspections
The recent townwide revaluation required all Hollis homeowners to allow interior inspections by Vision Appraisal, refusal of which was promised to result in a "loss of one's right to appeal the assessment". The position taken by the town was based on a 1992 NH state law (RSA) that appears to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment--the courts have held that residents (homeowners and renters) have the right to refuse a warrantless search or inspection of their homes without penalty. Click here for more info.
6. Prayer in School
A NH state law (RSA 194:15-a) currently permits (one might even say encourages) the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in public elementary schools. We don't know whether the prayer is being recited aloud in any New Hampshire schools, but this state law clearly invites schools to violate the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment. Click here for more info.
7. ISSUE RESOLVED--Dr. Ruth Sex Book in Hollis Brookline Middle School
The Coop School Board exercised good judgment when it voted to let stand an earlier decision by the Library Review Committee denying a parent's request to have the book "Dr. Ruth Talks to Kids About Sex" removed from the Middle School Library. Click here for more info.

Last updated February 2003

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