The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Changes to remove genital inspections as part of a ban on trans student athletes have been approved by an Ohio Senate committee, replaced by birth certificates as the overall bill continues to move forward.
House Bill 151’s efforts to increase teacher mentorship in Ohio were praised by education leaders, except for the part of the bill that was pushed in after its inception to keep transgender girls from participating in school sports. The legislation is sponsored by Ohio state Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport.
The original intent of the bill was to make changes to the Ohio Teacher Residency Program, a two-year program that helps teachers learn about the education system through observation of veteran teachers and conducts the Resident Educator Summative Assessment.
With amendments made during Tuesday’s Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee meeting, the trans athlete language stays in the bill, but schools will now use the student’s birth record to prove their sex, rather than a thorough physician examination.
Representatives from the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Ohio School Boards Association and the state associations of secondary and elementary school administrators all saw the mentorship and support portion of the bill regarding teacher residency to be beneficial to state educators.
“HB 151 creates a system of support for new teachers, allowing them opportunities to connect online with highly qualified mentors,” Tom Perkins, BASA executive director, told the committee.
The education groups did not support the addition of House Bill 61’s language seeking to prohibit trans athletes from participating in sports in the group of their gender identity, asking that the Senate split up the issues once again.
“The two are very different in both subject area and in stakeholders who have an interest in the proposals,” Perkins testified.
The effort has been harshly criticized by LGBTQ advocates and others, especially because of specific language that could create a process of genital inspection for trans students.
Jones’ bill received the amendment in a late night House session in June. His bill passed with the language attached.
When Jones presented the bill to the committee last week, he refused to speak on any of the language unrelated to the teacher mentorship program.
“My testimony is on the heart of 151,” Jones said on Nov. 30.
He also said he thought a new amendment was being formulated to “address some concerns” with the trans athlete part of the bill.
One group that testified specifically on the added part of the bill was the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The OHSAA already has a policy in place regarding transgender sports, though the issue impacts very few athletes, the association told the committee.
“Since the 2015-16 school year, there have been seven transgender females who have participated in high school sports in Ohio,” OHSAA executive director Doug Ute said in written testimony. “There have been eight transgender females who have participated at the 7/8 grade level, for a total of 15 children in eight years.”
Ute said the policy “has been very effective in addressing their participation” and was written to allow trans females to participate in sports, “but only when the student does not possess the physical traits that would undermine girls sports.”
The policy maintains that the “legitimate privacy interests of all student athletes should be protected” along with the “medical privacy.”
“Transgender student athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports,” the policy reads.
The committee did not vote on the bill on Tuesday, so the committee could hear more testimony before voting. The General Assembly session is set to end December 31, meaning the bill would have to be reintroduced if it doesn’t pass in the next few weeks.