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Ohio Board of Education passes resolution to oppose protections for LGBTQ+ students

Ohio Board of Ed. passes resolution to oppose protections for LGBTQ+ students
Posted at 8:42 PM, Dec 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-13 20:50:25-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After months of fighting, the Ohio State Board of Education voted Tuesday to oppose protections for LGBTQ+ students, but the legislation discriminates against transgender people much less than the original drafting of it.

In a 10-7 vote, board members passed the resolution to "Oppose the proposed changes to Title IX and to affirm parental rights and local control of Ohio K-12 education."

Context

The document was created after conservative board member Brendan Shea read about Attorney General Dave Yost's July lawsuit against the Biden Administration. Yost, who joined 21 other attorneys general, argued that new proposed changes to Title IX were illegal.

Due to the plethora of anti-trans legislation hitting state legislatures across the country, President Joe Biden proposed extending Title IX to protect against gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.

Shea and other Republican policymakers said the new guidelines go too far since the government could withhold federal funding from schools that don’t follow the updated law.

What much of the debate has come down to is equality versus religion and the transphobic and unsubstantiated claim that transgender students are dangerous.

Original

Conservative state board member Brendan Shea introduced the "Resolution to support parents, schools, and districts in rejecting harmful, coercive, and burdensome gender identity policies."

"Denying the reality of biological sex destroys foundational truths upon which education rests and irreparably damages children," Shea said, without any underlying evidence or data to support the claim.

Shea, a financial advisor who is home-schooling his children, knew he would be putting forward a "somewhat bold" proposal, but it "needs to be addressed."

See his comments in the link below.

RELATED: ‘I’m being villainized’ — Trans community speaks against Board of Ed. resolution opposing LGBTQ+ protections

The proposal first began with a preamble on religion, then went on to list what he doesn't like about the protections, including compelling schools to "deny biological reality" and the fact that refusing to call a child by their preferred pronouns or preferred name could be seen as sex-based harassment, opening the adult up to be sued.

When asked what was burdensome about using someone's correct pronouns, Shea said, "It's compelling speech, it's compelling someone to testify to something that they do not believe, that they believe is actually a falsehood...It's also violating what I believe is a religious liberty concern."

Shea’s proposal rejects the new Title IX and said God made just man and woman.

"I'm simply saying that this will lead to people, which I believe is a large number of Ohioans, a large number of Americans who do subscribe to religious belief, it will lead them to have to deny, basically deny, what they believe to be true, to comply with the new regulations," the board member responded after News 5 asked about those who don't subscribe to religious ideology, or rather, Christianity.

Among other provisions, it requires all Ohio schools to report to parents if their child mentions anything about their gender in a non-conforming way — in the classroom or when talking to a counselor.

It also would prohibit trans youth from playing sports because it would be "unfair" and it places "girls and women at increased risk for harassment and sexual assault by males who claim a female identity," which is completely unfounded.

Passed

All of the above restrictions, and any mention of religion, have been removed. Now, it states that the board urges lawmakers to make sure to protect the rights of parents, the innocence of children and the opportunities of girls in schools and athletics. Language opposing transgender rights is still included, but the resolution mainly focuses on the financial aspect.

Members Walt Davis, Diana Fessler, Sue Hackett, John Hagan, Kirsten Hill, Jenny Kilgore, Paul LaRue, Charlotte McGuire, Brendan Shea and Mike Toal voted in favor of the resolution. Mark Lamoncha abstained and Brandon Kern was absent. The rest voted no.

"Today, we mourn the loss of Ohio children and families to safely express who they are and bring their joyful, authentic selves into their classrooms," Honesty for Ohio Education's Cynthia Peeples said. "We mourn the loss of schools and educators as trusted, safe spaces for children to turn to when grappling with complicated issues of identity and family dynamics. We mourn for the loss of humanity from those State Board of Education members who chose partisan politics over their duty to protect the rights and safety of all Ohio children."

CLICK HERE to read the new resolution.

What now?

Just because the board passed this resolution doesn't mean anything will go into place. The members aren't lawmakers, but policy-makers, and they have limited control over educators.

They can, however, give encouragement to lawmakers to continue looking at these types of bills and can have the state superintendent tell school districts to not follow potential updates to Title IX.

Although this passed, Woodridge Local School District's board member Scott Karlo said that this resolution is the opposite of what board of education members should be doing.

"Our general focus is always on protecting and looking out for the kids in our community, and we'll always continue to do that," Karlo said. "I look at a resolution like this, and I think it basically goes against those efforts."

Targeting already vulnerable children as an elected official doesn't help anyone, he added.

Senate Bill 178

Democratic-affiliated candidates won control over the State Board of Education in Ohio, and one week later, the Republican lawmakers moved a bill forward to strip their powers.

For the first time in years, progressive candidates will control the elected seats on the executive agency, regulating if a resolution is able to pass or not.

RELATED: Ohio GOP moves forward bill to strip powers from Board of Ed. after losing control to Democrats

Karlo wouldn't be surprised if the chaotic behavior of the board influenced the decision of the lawmakers to revive Senate Bill 178.

"They spent months doing this, and I think it's one of the reasons that then started to drive Senate Bill 178 to basically say they're being ineffective in their work," Karlo said. "And, you know, I don't know if it's been really helpful for anybody."

Instead of finding a new superintendent, the board members spent hours debating this resolution, an issue that they have no jurisdiction over.

S.B. 178 passed the state Senate in the first week of December. The only responsibilities left for the board would be selecting the state superintendent, licensing teachers, handling staff disciplinary issues and making school territory transfer decisions.

Other legislation regarding transgender children

Lawmakers are also hearing testimony on House Bill 151, a bill to prohibit transgender athletes from being able to play sports in middle and high school, plus college.

RELATED: Ohio GOP passes bill aiming to root out 'suspected' transgender female athletes through genital inspection

This bill caused national backlash after a News 5 investigation that looked into the provision that would require genital inspections for any student “accused of being” transgender. The Senate lawmakers took that part out of the House bill, which News 5 broke in June, but they now substituted in language that would require a birth certificate check.

Another News 5 investigation also led to the downfall of H.B. 454. At the end of November, Ohio Republicans stopped their own bill from moving forward for this General Assembly, one that would severely limit healthcare for LGBTQ+ youth. It received national backlash following a News 5 investigation that revealed the bill impacting the LGBTQ+ community was written without a basic understanding of the people it would impact and that the lawmaker had never spoken to any members of the trans community before authoring, introducing or giving testimony on the bill.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.