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Father Arrested For Protesting Racy Novel At NH High School

By Christina Hager, WBZ-TV
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Award-winning reporter Christina Hager works as a general assignmen...
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GILFORD, NH (CBS) – A Gilford, New Hampshire father is in trouble with the law after he complained to school board members about a controversial book. “This is stunning that this is what it takes to get arrested,” said William Baer.

His 14-year-old daughter was assigned to read the book called “19 Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, for her Gilford High School English class. School officials have said it has important themes, and its defenders say it’s thought-provoking and appropriate for the ninth graders who’ve read it there for years.

There is some controversial material in the book, including a sex scene. “It reads like a transcript for a triple X porno movie,” said Baer. “We had no notice of it whatsoever, no written notice, no verbal, nothing.”

He took his concerns to a school board meeting, and when he exceeded the allotted two minutes for public comments, he was told to stop talking. When he refused, he was arrested. “We went into the police station, went through the booking process, and I sat there like a criminal,” says Baer.

The school department sent WBZ a statement explaining it has revised its policy for letting parents know about books being read. “The district will take immediate action to revise these policies to include notification that requires parents to accept controversial material rather than opt out. Furthermore, the notification will detail more specifically the controversial material,” wrote Sue Allen, Chair of the Gilford School Board.

Gilford’s acting Police Chief, Lt. James Leach, said he had no choice but to make the arrest. “There were repeated attempts to ask him to stop,” Lt. Leach said. “I asked him to leave. He refused. He said, ‘arrest me or I’m not going to’…so I did.”

Baer was released on $700.00 personal recognizance, and is due in court in June.

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