School boards from across Ohio gathered last week in Columbus for the annual Capital Conference of the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA). At the Business Meeting on November 8, delegates from all districts represented—one district, one vote—were given the opportunity to update the OSBA Legislative Platform.
“Our legislative platform represents everything that we believe in and everything we want to advocate for,” explains Anthony Gomez, a school board member in Cuyahoga Falls. “We as an association employ 3 lobbyists who spend most of their life at Capitol Square [at the statehouse]speaking out on legislation. So if something is not in that legislative platform, our lobbyists are not permitted to have an opinion on it.”
One thing not in the current platform: protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“This means that our lobbyists are not able to take a position on issues like bathroom bills and bans on trans youth playing sports,” says Gomez.
In the proposed language presented to delegates at the Business Meeting, “sexual orientation and gender identity” was added to 5 different sections, including ones highlighting the inequalities that students experience, a key part of fostering an inclusive environment, and in reference to legislation that the organization would oppose.
OSBA opposes legislation that ● Limits resources and/or opportunities for students of color and those who are traditionally underserved based on their ethnicity, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY or socioeconomic background.
When the vote was held, 194 of the 269 districts represented voted to approve the language inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. 75 delegates voted against the proposed changes.
The resulting 72.1% fell short of the three-fourths (3/4) vote needed to update the legislative platform. Thus the motion to add in sexual orientation and gender identity failed.
“Even though an overwhelming majority of school boards support these protections, the vote was defeated by a vocal minority who made so many fear based comments,” says Gomez.
Representatives from OSBA confirm the meaning of the outcome of this vote.
“The result of the amendment not receiving enough votes is that the language will not be added to the platform,” says Jeff Chambers, Director of Communication Services for OSBA. “This language would have provided direct guidance to OSBA’s lobbyists to engage in advocacy on issues impacting LGBTQ+ youth.”
In earlier proceedings, the Legislative Platform Committee met to discuss the proposed changes before sending them on to the full meeting of delegates. Stephanie Lang (Fort Frye Local School Board in Washington County) moved to strike all of the references to sexual orientation and gender identity, a motion seconded by Amy Kissinger (Cambridge City School Board in Guernsey County). Lang’s motion was defeated.
Kissinger then moved to add “religion” in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity, and for “religion” to be included where sexual orientation and gender identity are added throughout the resolution. Lang seconded the motion. Kissinger’s motion was defeated.
The Buckeye Flame reached Stephanie Lang for comment. This article will be updated with her response if one is received.
OSBA says that, despite the vote, their support for LGBTQ+ students will still be present.
“The education of Ohio’s public school students is OSBA’s top priority,” says Chambers. “OSBA will continue to engage in advocacy for students including Ohio’s LGBTQ+ students.”
Still, the vote’s failure sent a strong message to individuals across the state.
“It is very disheartening that people serve on school boards and they clearly don’t have a basic understanding of what transgender is,” says Gomez. “Everyone needs to talk to their school boards and hold people to the fire for next year to push for legislative change.” 🔥
- Talk to your school board. Ask them how they voted on this proposed legislative agenda.
- Consider running for your local school board.