Oct 11, 2022 - News

Ohio school board's LGBTQ+ vote

Illustration of a school bus with an activated stop sign showing a pride flag.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The Ohio Board of Education is expected to vote tomorrow on a controversial resolution opposing proposed federal protections for LGBTQ+ students.

Why it matters: The proposal is largely symbolic, but it's stoking a culture war unfurling in classrooms across the country that's impacting how transgender students are treated.

Reality check: Ohio is a local control state. The state board of education helps implement the state's education laws, but doesn't set them.

  • Districts then choose their own educational materials and policies at the discretion of their local boards of education.

Yes, but: This resolution urges state lawmakers to pass related laws.

  • Two are already in progress: banning transgender girls from competing in sports and prohibiting K-3 classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • It also calls for schools to be required to tell parents if a minor "claims a discordant gender identity, questions their gender identity (or) requests alternative names or pronouns."

Catch up quick: 61 people testified at an hours-long meeting last month regarding board member Brendan Shea's proposal. Most spoke against it, with many noting LGBTQ+ students are at a high risk for bullying and suicide.

  • Shea, of London, said his resolution addresses "flagrant violation of parents' rights," such as schools referring to different pronouns without parents’ knowledge.
  • Four of the board's 19 members have issued a statement in opposition.

Between the lines: Shea also repeated a thoroughly debunked social media rumor that erroneously claimed students who think they're cats or dogs are, as he put it, "using litter boxes in classrooms."

  • Shea and the board president did not respond to our requests for comment.

The big picture: Republican-led states have been busy introducing laws targeting transgender youth this year.

  • Last month, Virginia's governor proposed rolling back model policies that allow students to use names, pronouns and restrooms that align with their gender identity. Florida has banned transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports.

What we're watching: Debates are bubbling up locally, too. Hilliard educators faced backlash for wearing badges in support of LGBTQ+ students that included a QR code with resources for adults.

  • In New Albany, educators have been directed not to refer to students by any gender or pronoun not approved by their parents, per an email to families provided to Axios.
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