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Parent says free speech rights violated in arrest over book

GILFORD, N.H. —Some parents in Gilford are voicing concerns about a book with a risque love scene that high school students are reading.

School officials said the book "Nineteen Minutes" by New Hampshire author Jodi Picoult has important themes, but some parents disagree. Parent William Baer was handcuffed and escorted out of a meeting held Monday night in which the book was discussed.

School officials said the book has occasionally been part of the curriculum since 2007, so the controversy came as something of a surprise. But some parents objected to page 313 in the book, which describes a sexual encounter.

"I've never read anything like this," Baer said. "It's like the transcript for a triple-X-rated movie."

Baer said the book is required reading in his daughter's honors English class. At the school board meeting Monday, Baer was given two minutes to voice his concerns, which Baer called insulting.

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

Baer said he believes what happened at the meeting was a violation of his First Amendment rights. The board said it imposed the two-minute rule to give everyone a chance to be heard, but Baer refused to stop when his time was up.

He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

"He 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."

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