Constituent Expresses Frustration at Representatives’ Responses

By Donna Baker-Hartwell

On April 18, I attended the public hearing at the State House regarding Senate Bill 272, an act establishing a parents’ bill of rights in education. In addition to parental rights already granted, this bill proposes that school personnel be required by law (under the threat of possible lawsuits and/or employment termination) to inform parents if a student expresses gender different from that assigned at enrollment.

I understand that this is a very sensitive and debated issue. It is one that most parents will never experience. As a mother of someone who has transitioned and the grandparent of a nonbinary child, I have personal experience and know how important it is for a young person to feel safe and supported in their school community. 

It is often in the school environment that an LGBTQIA+ person finds the support and courage to come out eventually to their parents. A child “feeling different” often needs time, a safe environment, and trusted adults and peers to process. This bill will deprive students of this and create a school environment that puts teachers and LGBTQIA+ youth at risk.

I have written to both of our state representatives, Representative Louise Andrus and Representative Deborah Aylward. I have been in touch with Representative Andrus. She says that she is open to discussing issues with her constituents and wishes that more people would contact her.

After a postal letter and two emails to Representative Aylward, she replied, “I cannot rely on constituent emails, whether in support or opposition, unless they were sent to the committee through proper channels for members’ consideration.” This is not normal protocol.

That said, on April 18, my representative, Louise Andrus, arrived at the public hearing about an hour into the discussion. She had signed up to speak in favor of SB272 and was allowed three minutes at the podium. She was called shortly after arriving and testified by sharing a personal story about her daughter’s graduation from high school. 

Andrus shared that the school was not going to allow her daughter to participate in the graduation ceremony at the end of the year. She had finished all of her required credits in December. As a parent, Representative Andrus was able to convince the school to allow her daughter to walk with her classmates at graduation. My representative left the chamber shortly after giving her testimony.

I was confused and taken aback that her testimony had nothing to do with the discussion of LGBTQIA+ youth in our public schools or SB272. As a constituent and Andover voter, I expect my representative/s to do their homework, to come to public hearings and listen to others that may have a broader perspective on the bill, and to vote after being fully informed. It appears to me that my representative has failed to do so.

I urge readers to go to the following link to hear Representative Andrus’s testimony. Her testimony begins at 1:33:30: