Mar 20, 2015 9:11 PM

Students, parents disappointed in NH lawmakers' reactions to raptor bill

HAMPTON FALLS - Students and their parents are speaking out about their dismay over comments lawmakers made about a bill some fourth-graders proposed last week.

"We were really excited, and we wanted them to vote yes, and it was OK that they didn't," said Maia Delano, one of the fourth-graders at the Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls.

Lawmakers didn't just turn the bill down.

Should the N.H. Legislature debate bills proposed by students?

"My colleagues mocked them from the floor," said Rep. Renny Cushing, who sponsored the bill proposing the Red-Tailed Hawk become the state raptor. "The debate was hijacked from being about the state raptor to a question of abortion."

The aggressive response from multiple lawmakers in front of the fourth graders stunned many, and parents were not happy.

"We were all shocked by the behavior of the individuals that spoke the way they did," said Nancy Roka, a parent of one of the students.

The behavior has drawn criticism nationwide.

"Certain individuals turned it into a grandstand for their own issues," Roka said.

Students worked on the bill for months, learning about the unique bird of prey. They even wore a special shirt with the words "Live Free & Fly" on it.

Their teacher Jim Cutting helped guide them through the process.

"They followed the process and got as far as we were able to get," Cutting said.

While the bill may have been stopped, the conversation has not.

Maia said she and her classmates were disappointed.

"It's really exciting to do something like this because not everyone gets to do it," she said.

It's been an addition to the dark cloud already hovering over the school. Just two days before the proposed bill was presented, a push for a school renovation was declined for a third year in a row.

"This would've been a nice celebration in a week with some disappointment from the whole school community," said Principal Mark Deblois.

And some are hoping it's a lesson for those who lead.

"I think it's clear that the adults that day in representative's hall were in the gallery, not on the floor," Cushing said.

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