Parent arrested after protesting Jodi Picoult novel being read in schools

A New Hampshire parent was arrested when he overshot his allotted time during a debate over the assignment of Jodi Picoult's novel 'Nineteen Minutes' to ninth-grade readers.

'Nineteen Minutes' is by Jodi Picoult.

A New Hampshire resident was handcuffed and led out of a school board meeting on May 5 after he protested the fact that his ninth-grade daughter was assigned the novel “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult.

According to police, Gilford father William Baer “spoke out of order,” said Lt. James Leach. “Someone else was given the floor and was speaking. He interrupted them and continued after being asked to stop. He was then asked to leave and refused to leave unless he was arrested, so he was arrested.”

The book by Picoult is about a high school shooting, but Baer objected to a sex scene that he said he considered similar to “the transcript for a triple-X-rated movie,” according to WMUR New Hampshire. He told CBS, “We had no notice of it whatsoever, no written notice, no verbal, nothing.”

According to the school board, Baer had two minutes to talk about his worries over the book, which Baer believes violated his First Amendment rights, he told WMUR.

“It was basically, you make a statement, say what you want and sit down," he said of the time limit he was given. "Sit down and shut up, basically, and that's not how you interact with adults.” 

He was charged with disorderly conduct.

According to WMUR, the school board later issued a statement saying, “The board apologizes for the discomfort of those impacted and for the failure of the school district to send home prior notice of assignment of the novel.… The district will take immediate action to revise these policies.”

Picoult tweeted about the controversy before the school board meeting.

“Another parent is challenging #19Minutes bc it contains a sex scene far more vague than anything on TV,” she wrote. “Sad to focus on that & not bullying.”

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