Ohio’s top school board voted 10 to 7 to approve an amended resolution on Tuesday that opponents said will harm LGBTQ+ youth in the state. Board member Brendon Shea wrote the resolution after changes were proposed in June to Title IX, a federal program protecting people from discrimination based on sex. The changes include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“This is taking one single group of students and not including them in basic, the same basic education as the rest of the students that we work with in Ohio,” said Amanda Erickson, director of education and outreach at Kaleidoscope Youth Center.
The vote comes after several meetings and hours of public testimony over the course of four months.
What does the resolution say?
Shea, of London, introduced the resolution in September, now titled the “Resolution to oppose the proposed changes to Title IX and to affirm parental rights and local control of Ohio K-12 education.”
The resolution’s newest version states the proposed Title IX changes “contradict the plain language of the original law,” and requires school “sports teams to be based on gender identity rather than biological sex” while granting “access to sex-separate facilities based on gender identity rather than on biological sex.”
“This is a foundational issue,” said Shea. “The issue of boys and girls and restrooms and sports it’s a foundational issue and I think if you’re going to consider yourself a leader, as an individual or as a board, at the state level I think you ought to take a position.”
Further, the resolution states the proposed regulations “require that K-12 schools to socially transition minor children to a different gender without requiring parental consent.” Shea also states the regulations deprive students of their First Amendment right to speech.
The amended resolution asks that the board call upon Ohio’s legislature to “resist federal executive branch attempts to undermine the original intent of Title IX.” It then directs the acting Superintendent of Public Instruction to issue, within 21 days, a copy of the resolution to every Ohio public school indicating that the board opposes the proposed changes, and considers the guidance “unenforceable” and does not compel them to take a particular course of action.
Regardless, the changes to Title IX remain unenforceable until the U.S. Department of Education reviews the more than 200,000 comments submitted during a public comment period this past summer. The process to finalize the regulations could take months or even years.
Still, a lawsuit filed by Ohio Attorney General David Yost and 21 other attorneys general claim the proposed policies are illegal. In July, a federal judge in Tennessee ruled in their favor, temporarily blocking parts of the new Title IX protections. A final ruling is still pending.
The resolution states the board supports the efforts of the Ohio Attorney General.
Strong reactions on both sides
Rejecting the proposed protections has drawn strong reactions throughout the past four months. Earlier this fall, the Columbus City School Board passed its own resolution in opposition to Shea’s proposal.
“This legislation is absolutely disgusting,” said Columbus City School Board President Jennifer Adair. “It promotes just blatant discrimination, and it is just full of hate.”
However, some parents agree with the resolution, saying sexuality and gender identity should not be a factor in schools. Susan Kleine, a retired clinical counselor from Milford, voiced support for the resolution.
“Encouraging the choice of ‘pronouns’ and encounters with opposite sex kids in bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers actually makes schools culpable for the anxiety, bullying, and possible physical abuse which school authorities are tasked to prevent,” said Kleine.
Executive Director of the Ohio School Psychologists Association, Rachel Chilton, spoke against the resolution and said reports show youth who attend schools who support the LGBTQ+ community have lower rates of attempted suicide.
“Banning affirming behavioral and medical care for minors goes against widely recommended medical advice and would harm the mental and physical well-being of all LGBTQ+ youth across the state, especially transgender and nonbinary youth,” said Chilton.
The resolution underscores the several anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in the Ohio legislature in 2022, including House Bill 616, a “divisive concepts” bill opponents have dubbed a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In addition, Ohio has statutes and constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage that would be reenacted if Obergefell v. Hodges — the Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage — were overturned.
LGBTQ+ young people are known to have difficulty finding safe spaces. More than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth seriously consider suicide each year and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds, according to The Trevor Project.
The vote comes on the same day President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill protecting the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. The bill requires a state to recognize a marriage from elsewhere regardless of the sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin of the individuals.