Controversial Ohio bill would ban teaching children topics of race, sexual orientation

Gov. Mike DeWine yet to comment where he stands on the issue.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 2:23 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Two Ohio state representatives have introduced new legislation that would ban teaching students what is being called “divisive or inherently racists topics” or “sexual orientation and gender identity” in the classroom.

House Bill 616 is being compared to a recent legislation passed in Florida, that those who oppose it have deemed the “Don’t say Gay” law.

It should be noted, nowhere in HB 616, does it contain the phrase, “don’t say gay.”

The new legislation reads that no school district in Ohio or private school that accepts state money shall, “Teach, use, or provide for use by any student any curriculum, instructional material, or assignment designed to promote or endorse divisive or inherently racist concepts.”

The bill also includes, “With respect to a student in any of grades kindergarten through three, teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“This bill actually doesn’t protect anyone,” said Kenyon Farrow, Board member at the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland. “It doesn’t protect young people who are not LGBT students. It doesn’t protect LGBT students. What this bill does is create an atmosphere of fear, really, that will drive more LGBT young people into depression.”

Farrow worries this bill will isolate LGBT students and students with LGBT families.

“I think laws like this will definitely make it harder for people to come out in the state of Ohio,” said Farrow. “You know, I was born and raised, you know, here in Cleveland, Ohio, where I live and I also, I left Ohio, precisely because I felt like in the 90s, when I left as a young person, that it was not a safe place for me to be and I lived in New York City, Washington, DC, for 21 years I left and so I would love for the state of Ohio to be a state where young people didn’t feel like they had to leave in order to save their own lives.”

According to the legislation, educators who are found to have violated the law could lose their licenses. The bill also says school districts could lose their funding. Farrow believes if the bill passes a lot of people will leave Ohio.

“I bought a house in Cleveland Heights and looking at bills like this, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve made a mistake and I should have taken my money and my resources and gone to some other state where perhaps my life would be worth more than what the governor and the state legislature seems to think that it is worth based on the construction of this bill, both around racial issues and also around LGBT issues as well,” Farrow said.

The two republican legislators listed as sponsors on the bill are Rep. Mike Loychik, who represents the Niles just outside of Warren, and Rep. Jean Schmidt, who represents the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati.

19 News has made multiple attempts by phone, email and Facebook to talk to both sponsors with no response.

In a press release, Representative Mike Loychik said, “Children deserve a quality education that is fair, unbiased and age appropriate.”

The legislation was introduced Monday and will have to work its way through committees at the Ohio Statehouse.

When asked for a comment from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, his press secretary emailed, “We will need to review this just-introduced legislation, so it is premature to comment at this time.”

Some House democrats are not waiting to comment, in fact condemning what they call the “Don’t say gay,” law.

The president of the Ohio Education Association, the labor union representing Ohio’s 120,000 educators, said she is worried the bill is to vague in a live interview with Cleveland 19 News on Tuesday afternoon.

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