William Baer is a hardworking attorney whose work in New York City's prosecutor's office has involved some of the country's most unsavory crimes. He is also a loving husband and father to three children, including a 14-year-old who attends ninth grade in the Gilford, New Hampshire, School District.
And Baer was recently arrested for the first time in his life. He has been charged with "disorderly conduct" for going over the two-minute speech limit at a Gilford School Board meeting. What makes this incident even more outrageous are the events that led up to it.
Baer decided to speak at the Board meeting after learning about a controversial book that was assigned to Gilford students, including Baer's 14-year-old daughter, to read. The book, Nineteen Minutes, explicitly details a fictional school shooting, homicide, gun violence, sexual acts featuring minors and a rape scene. Baer was understandably upset that his young daughter was assigned such a graphic book with neither his knowledge nor consent, so he contacted the school's principal, who refused to meet with him or speak on the issue. Baer had no other way to remedy the situation but to take it to the School Board.
But the Gilford School Board was informed of Baer's intention to raise the issue at their regular Monday meeting, so they took a number of steps not taken in the past to prevent actually having to deal with the problem.
Douglas J. Hagmann wrote:
First, they stationed a Gilford Municipal police officer inside the meeting venue "to keep order." Then, they limited all public comments to two minutes only, and refused to answer any questions of the attendees. Ostensibly, this was done because of the multitudes of those present to speak out against the book, yet not more than a few dozen people were actually present. Also, the number who actually wished to speak remained in the single digits, including Mr. Baer. Accordingly, any sensible person would question the rationale behind such an arbitrary policy instituted for this particular meeting.
When Baer was permitted to speak he noted that parents normally have to "opt-in" for their child to read a book such as Nineteen Minutes, but in this case, parents had to "opt-out" if they didn't want their child reading a book, though they weren't even made aware of it until a week after it had been assigned.
He asked the principal present at the meeting to read page 313 of the book, which describes what many would call a rape scene involving two high school students. The principal refused to read the book, as did all other board members, calling it "inappropriate." Baer then attempted to ask the board members legitimate questions, but they reused to answer his questions, saying they would only allow speakers to make statements within a two-minute timeframe.
Ultimately, Baer exceeded the two-minute mark by 18 seconds. The school board members gave him a stern warning and made it clear that they would not address his concerns, so he peacefully sat down.
Later in the meeting, another man complained about parents such as Baer "dictating what you can and cannot read and what my kids cannot read." Baer took offense at this false accusation, and explained that no one is trying to censor the book, but informed parental consent should be required for children to read explicit sexual and violent material.
After what appeared to be a hand signal from a board member, the police officer who was mysteriously guarding the meeting for the first time in recent memory walked over to Baer's seat, arrested him and escorted him out of the building. The officer appeared hesitant to make the arrest, or follow through with it once outside -- he even let Baer know that he supported his stance on the issue -- but he proceeded with the arrest anyway, on a charge of "disorderly conduct."
Watch the video above to learn more about the meeting and see the arrest for yourself. You can also learn more by reading Hagmann's full report here.