Ohio’s Version of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Undermines School Choice

Ohio Republican legislators are trying to emulate Florida with a bill which would ban certain content related to race and sex in public schools. Ohio’s bill wouldn’t just ban topics in public schools, though—it also covers private schools that students may attend through vouchers, thus undermining the benefits of school choice.

On Monday, State Reps. Jean Schmidt (R–Lakeland) and Mike Loychik (R–Cortland) introduced H.B. H.B. 616 is a copy of Florida’s H.B. 1557, which prohibits students from having any “curriculum and instructional materials about sexual orientation or gender identification” beyond third grade. It also forbids students from third through sixth grade to be taught about this subject outside of the state’s standards. This is a strange formulation because Ohio law forbids state Board of Education to establish standards for health education.

While the Ohio law is similar, the Ohio legislation does not grant parents civil litigation rights against schools districts. Parents cannot also claim financial damages. It would be a good thing, however, instead the Ohio bill requires teachers and school administrators to be penalized for violating the law, perhaps even losing their teaching licensures. Schools could be denied funding if they are found to have violated the law. The “Don’t Say Gay” description of Florida’s bill focused on the implications and subtext of legal threats. However, the Ohio bill is more explicit and direct. These issues can be brought up by teachers and administrators, or they could result in their dismissal.

The bill bans all instruction that encourages critical race theory and intersectional theory. It also prohibits the teaching of inherited racial guilt or any other idea that is divisive, inherently racist, by the state board. The bill does not define any of these terms.

This bill presumes all Ohio parents are against any such teachings, which is wrong, false, and bad. These are things that some parents would like to see taught to their children. However, the solution should not involve imposing or banning education on all subjects and discussing these ideas. Schools would be open to students and parents, allowing them to select the school that meets their needs.

H.B. But H.B. H.B. must also be adhered to by private schools that offer students the opportunity to enroll through state education voucher programs. 616.

It isn’t a bill supporting parents’ right to influence and control their children’s education. It is the exact opposite—it’s just coming from social conservatives rather than progressive gender and race activists.