COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Ohio Board of Education has voted to send a resolution that would have rejected proposed federal protections for LGBTQ+ students to executive committee, delaying a vote on the measure.
Ohio’s top school board voted 12-7 to send a resolution to executive committee on Wednesday that opponents said would have harmed 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 included protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The 19-member board heard four hours of public testimony before voting on Wednesday.
Equality Ohio Public Policy Director Maria Bruno testified against the resolution, and said the resolution endorses “lawlessness by arguing that disagreement with federal law is sufficient justification to ignore it.”
“Ohio public schools are legally obligated to not discriminate against LGBTQ+ students in schools,” said Bruno. “Our schools must abide by nondiscrimination laws that include — and have, for many years, included — not discriminating against LGBTQ+ students, including transgender students.”
Shea, of London, introduced the resolution in September, titled the “Resolution to support parents, schools, and districts in rejecting harmful, coercive, and burdensome gender identity policies and to protect federal funding subject to Title IX.”
The resolution’s newest version argues “sex is not arbitrarily ‘assigned’ at birth but rather identities an unchangeable fact” and claims the new Title IX rules “would require that K-12 schools socially transition minor children to a different gender without requiring parental consent.”
Shea writes against requiring school sports to be based on gender identity rather than biological sex and requiring students and staff to use a child’s preferred name and pronouns.
Earlier this month, the Columbus City School Board passed its own resolution in opposition to Shea’s proposal. Columbus City School Board President Jennifer Adair said the resolution is “blatant discrimination, hate, and injustice.”
If approved, Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction would be directed to inform each public school district and institution that the new Title IX guidance is “non-binding and unenforceable.”
However, the Title IX proposal remains 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 prospect of rejecting the proposed regulations, whether at the state level or through the courts, drew strong reactions on Wednesday.
Susan Kleine, a retired clinical counselor from Mildfords, 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.
A parent from Beavercreek, Sarah Murray, also spoke in support and said the changes to Title IX would expose women and girls “to undergo sexual harassment by being expected to share locker rooms with biological males.” A 2018 study conducted by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, however, found no evidence that allowing transgender people to use public facilities that align with their gender identity increases safety risks.
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 the past six months, 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. Research shows LGBTQ+ youth are five times more likely to die by suicide due to their inability to be out among family members and peers. In addition, 92% of transgender youth have attempted suicide before age 25.