For 20 minutes on April 14th, about 150 students at Hilliard Darby High School participated in a walkout to show their opposition to HB 616.
The Hilliard City School District was made aware of the walkout and promised to ensure their safety, even as they made it clear that it was not a school-sponsored event.
Hilliard is a suburb of Columbus in central Ohio.
As part of their walkout, students invited Morgan Harper, a progressive Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman.
Students told the Columbus Dispatch that they notified the vice principal and other school officials about Harper’s appearance ahead of time and no one objected. Harper said a few words at the walkout, and left after 15 minutes without interacting with school personnel.
In response, the school district issued a statement saying that Harper had trespassed school property and filed a subsequent police report:
“Without the consent of appropriate district personnel, an unauthorized person – a candidate for political office – entered school property without permission to do so…She later posted photos of her trespass on social platforms along with photos that included our students. The district requested the candidate involved remove and delete all photos online from the event. Further, we have filed a report with the Hilliard Division of Police, and we have notified her through our attorney that she is prohibited from being on any school property, effective immediately. The district is also filing a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission.”
Harper held a press conference on Saturday to respond the school district’s statement and actions. Two student organizers of the walkout also spoke.
“On Thursday, April 14th my friends and I organized and spoke at a rally at our school to protest the ‘Don’t Say Gay bill,” said Owen, one of the students. “Although our school provided the opportunity to protest the bill in a safe and organized matter, we were called names for standing up for human rights. All the hate we are receiving just goes to show that LGBTQ youth needs more support from people like Morgan Harper.”
For her part, Harper labeled the district’s statement and police report “entirely frivolous” and “politically motivated.”
“Right wing adults are attempting to interfere with students rights to demonstrate,” Harper said. “These adults should be ashamed of themselves. Instead, they should be applauding students for doing what a lot of adults wouldn’t even have the courage to do: showing the integrity and courage in standing up for their beliefs. That would be a good use of everyone’s time, money, and resources.”
Harper condemned the introduction of HB 616, calling it “outrageous,” “irresponsible,” and saying that it would have irreversible negative effects on LGBTQ+ students and teachers. She also highlighted the aspects of the bill that restrict conversations on race in schools.
“Ohio’s most extreme legislators are also targeting race and any material deemed divisive,” Harper said. “That is beyond broad. Anything can be deemed divisive.”
Introduced on April 4 by Republican Ohio House Representatives Jean Schmidt and Mike Loychik, HB 616 is currently awaiting assignment to a House subcommittee. 🔥
- Equality Ohio recommends the following actions on HB 616:
- Call House Speaker Cupp at (614) 466-9624
- Submit Testimony on HB 616 here.