Despite calls from law enforcement and public health officials, the House voted to change participation in a biannual student survey that guides policy and secures funding to address sexual violence, substance abuse and youth suicide from opt-out to opt-in.
And in two votes, the House limited the ability of school leaders to enact the kind of safety protocols they implemented during COVID-19.
At a public hearing on House Bill 1639 proposing that the youth risk behavior survey become optional, Franklin Police Chief Dave Goldstein and health officials have warned that this reduce participation and, in turn, undermine funding and public policy efforts. The bill passed, 183-164, but not before a warning from House Speaker Sherman Packard, a Republican from Londonderry, about decorum.
Representative Ralph Boehm, a Republican from Litchfield and main sponsor of HB 1639, told the House that the survey was unreliable because students treated it as a joke and did not answer honestly. Representative Patricia Cornell, a Manchester Democrat, pushed back, urging the House not to be swayed by “misinformation”.
Packard, a Republican from Londonderry, objected to the use of the word.
“We already had it. We got it yesterday,” Packard said. “And it already started today. And I ask all members to refrain from making any type of accusatory remark about another member.
Rep. Lucy Weber, a Democrat from Walpole, responded by telling Packard that the reference to misinformation was just a factual question. Packard disagreed. “The member, in my opinion, suggested that he lied,” he said.
Opponents of COVID-19 school mask mandates and remote learning have successfully limited the use of both in the future.
Under House Bill 1131, which passed 166-157, schools will be prohibited from requiring students, teachers and people visiting schools to wear masks. And the Department of Education and the State Board of Education will continue to have the power to limit how school districts can use remote learning. House Bill 1113which would have allowed schools to use remote learning for up to five days a year for weather and other emergencies, including those impacting health and safety, failed by a similar margin, 166 -154.