COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A nonpartisan advocacy group is speaking out against an Ohio bill that could strip teachers of their licenses if critical race theory is taught in their classrooms.
Ten speakers from Honesty for Ohio Education, a statewide coalition of more than 30 organizations, appeared Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse to voice their opposition to a bill introduced by Republican representatives in May that would prohibit state agencies, K-12 schools, and higher education institutions from teaching about “divisive concepts” related to race and gender.
House Bill 327 is the second of two bills that targets critical race theory in Ohio classrooms — the notion that racism is embedded in U.S. legal, financial, and social institutions like the criminal justice and healthcare systems.
While Honesty for Ohio Education planned for its protest to precede the Ohio House’s State and Local Government Committee — where the bill currently resides — the committee did not convene as scheduled.
If passed, HB 237 would require the Department of Education to rescind funding to schools that instruct students about the following subjects:
- One nationality, ethnicity, race or sex is “inherently superior” to another
- The U.S. is fundamentally racist or sexist
- A person’s nationality, ethnicity, race, or sex makes them inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive
- A person should face discrimination because of their nationality, ethnicity, race, or sex
- A person’s moral character is defined by their nationality, ethnicity, race, or sex
- A person of a certain nationality, ethnicity, race, or sex bears responsibility for past actions committed by members of the same group
- Meritocracy or qualities like hard work ethic are racist or sexist and were created by a particular nationality, ethnicity, race, or sex to oppress another group of people
Not only could schools lose their funding, but a recent announcement by the College Board’s Advanced Placement program hinted at the possibility of schools losing their AP designation from courses if certain educational topics are kicked to the curb — meaning students enrolled in those courses won’t receive college credit.
In its statement, the College Board stressed that it opposes censorship and designs its AP courses to help students become “independent thinkers” who “draw their own conclusions.”
“If a school bans required topics from their AP courses, the AP Program removes the AP designation from that course and its inclusion in the AP Course Ledger provided to colleges and universities,” the College Board said.
Another consequence of the bill, according to the ACLU of Ohio’s chief lobbyist Gary Daniels, is that parents could also sue teachers who employ “divisive concepts” in their classrooms, a move he said poses a threat to the future of education.
“The end result is instructors will simply stop teaching anything on these subjects at all,” Daniels said in September testimony before the Ohio House’s State and Local Government Committee. “Who among them will risk lawsuits, bankruptcy, license revocation, and their schools literally being shut down because they frame centuries of laws and policies that kept Black people and women from voting as evidence of systemic racism and sexism?”
Proponents of the bill, however, argued that the instruction of critical race theory is a form of bullying that pits groups of students against one another.
Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur, who co-sponsored HB 327, testified in June that the bill protects children’s rights to learn about U.S. history in an objective manner where taxpayer dollars aren’t used to “promote an ideology of racism and group guilt.”
“It is an unconscionable perversion that any child should be held personally responsible for the sins of their father, or a group of individuals in the past,” Arthur said. “We are a nation founded on individual responsibility, individual accountability, and individual accomplishment and failure.”
Representatives of groups who spoke out against the bill Wednesday, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the League of Women Voters, argued that the bill — which they called a form of censorship — serves to “whitewash” U.S. history and shields students from the realities of the country’s stained past.
Cynthia Peeples, founding director of Honesty for Ohio Education, said the bill dehumanizes the experiences of people of color throughout American history by dismissing their encounters with racism as “divisive concepts.”
“Worse, it prevents pathways to reconciliation, healing, and unity,” Peeples said. “Only through truth and honest education will we live up to the ideals, aspirations, and promises of this nation.”
It’s unclear when the State and Local Government Committee plans to vote on the bill.