ATTEND the next Epping School Board Meeting on Thursday April 18, 2019

The recent story about a student in Epping told to cover up her “Make America Great Again” shirt on a day chosen to honor America, has invoked quite the response from individuals on both sides of the political fence. 

By reading through the comments below various articles reporting on the story, one thing is clear, everyone seems to be in agreement that this should never have happened.  There are comments from people acknowledging their opposition to President Trump but, vocalizing their support for Ciretta MacKenzie’s right to express her free speech rights. That’s a good thing.  It seems America gets what the Principal in Epping did not get, our children do not give up their 1st Amendment rights when they walk through the doors of our public schools. 

This is ONE BIG set up for a lawsuit.  Students have won court cases where their 1st amendment rights were violated in a similar way. I suspect Ciretta has a good case and, I suspect the school administrators know it.  

The Manchester Union Leader reported that Brian S. Ernest, Principal of Epping High School offered an apology.  It’s amazing what a slam-dunk potential lawsuit will do to get administrators to backtrack. There is a lesson to learn; it’s time to get involved with what your local school is teaching and not teaching students. 

There is a public debate raging over the elimination of the Electoral College.  How many high school students understand how the Electoral College works and, why we use it in the United States? When school administrators do not understand their actions violate a person’s 1st amendment rights, what else don’t they know? 

We have an illiteracy problem in this country, especially in the area of history and civics.  Today’s classrooms push political activism over content knowledge.  I hear the call to get kids out of the public schools, but that doesn’t solve the problem.  Illiteracy is to be challenged, not ignored. 

Check your latest property tax bill to see how much you gave to your local school district last year.  Multiply that by the number of years you’ve lived in that town and, you can determine how much you paid to fund the school district.  Did you get your money’s worth?  Are they doing their best to teach students real civics content?  Do students read and understand the Bill of Rights? Do they know what federalism means versus federal control?  Are they reading the U.S. Constitution before graduating high school? 

A few years ago I sat with Bedford high school seniors and, I asked them if they were required to read the U.S. Constitution.  Their answer was NO. The students were working at the polls during an election because Bedford requires 8 hours of “Democracy in action,” in order to graduate. I shared this with the Superintendent and the school board members.  After all I was paying a LOT of money to the school district.

Years ago my son’s friend in Bedford asked me if I could put him in touch with a political campaign. He wanted to hold signs for a candidate for office in order to fulfill the “Democracy in action” requirement.  I asked him if he knew anything about the candidate and, he said NO. He needed to do an action item in order to fulfill the 8-hour graduation requirement. He chose to hold a sign for for a candidate he knew nothing about.  It helped the campaign but did nothing to promote literacy in civics education. 

Let’s be perfectly clear, illiteracy is not good.  In the case in Epping, it may cost the district a lot of money.  If this student sues the school, it will be the taxpayers paying that tab.

If you live in New Hampshire and can attend the next School Board meeting in Epping, go and speak during public comments. Ask about their social studies curriculum.  Are students required to learn and read the founding documents? What kind of emphasis do they put on activism versus actual knowledge? 

If you do not live in Epping remember that the school district receives funding from the State and Federal Government.  That means that you are paying the bills in Epping too. 

If this isn’t a cry to get involved in your local school, I don’t know what is.  It does not matter if your children do not attend your local school, you pay a significant amount of property taxes so, you still have a voice. 

The next Epping School Board meeting is Thursday April 18th in the Epping Town Hall, 157 Main Street.  They hold meetings on the first and third Thursday of each month.  Meetings typically start at 7:00 pm and the public session is open to the public.

Ann Marie Banfield  can be reached at