State board of education hears hours more testimony on anti-trans resolution; will vote in December

The State Board of Education will vote next month an an anti-transgender resolution that could endanger LGBTQ+ students across Ohio.

On Tuesday, Ohio’s State Board of Education (BOE) heard a third round of public testimony concerning an anti-transgender resolution rejecting Title IX protections for LGBTQ+ students in Ohio’s public schools.

The “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Identity Policies” was first proposed by conservative Madison County State School Board member Brendan Shea in September.

Since then, members heard more than twelve hours of public testimony, and the Executive Committee has delivered a recommendation to pass the resolution. 

At the close of the nine-hour meeting, an “emergency” motion for the full board to immediately vote on the resolution was defeated 9-10, meaning the resolution will likely be on December’s agenda for a vote.  Even board president Charlotte McGuire — who is now on the record saying she opposes LGBTQ+ protections — voted to move this item to a December vote. 

Shea’s original resolution contained glaring scientific inaccuracies concerning intersex people, sex chromosomes and primary and secondary sex characteristics — alongside overtly religious language and references to a Christian God.

The resolution was amended by Board Member Mike Toal, but several experts noted that it still contains scientific inaccuracies.

Trans youth fight back

13-year old Bradie Anderson — an eighth grade student in the Ohio public school system — testified against the resolution.

“Month after month, I listen to the school board meetings in my town and it’s all about protecting students from people like me,” she said. “Where does it end for kids like me? Where are we supposed to go? We just want to be left alone like everyone else.”

Transgender student Fiona Zimmerman described near constant harassment and violence during her time in Ohio public schools, asking board members to vote against the resolution. 

20-year-old Emily Flauto also offered testimony in which she directly quoted Board Member Shea.

Though Shea was not permitted to address Flauto during or after her testimony, he did — visibly alarming her as she clung to the arm of fellow speaker Jeanne Ogden. Within a few seconds, Board President Charlotte McGuire interrupted Shea, forbidding him to speak further.

Parents of trans youth fiercely oppose the resolution

Young transgender people — along with dozens of parents and other allies — showed up in droves to offer public testimony in opposition of the resolution.

Ember Zelch is currently the only transgender girl in the state approved to compete in sports at the high school level. Her mother, Minna Zelch, spoke in defense and support of her daughter.

“On Sunday, I will be at a vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance, keenly aware that I am one of the lucky ones because I can still hug my kid every night,” Zelch said. “That’s the life of the parent of a trans kid in Ohio.”

Fathers of transgender girls and young transgender women also showed up to speak in support of their children.

“My older daughter told my wife and I she was a girl when she was 8 years old,” said one dad. “Now she is 14, and we have been on quite the journey. She just wants to be respected, and for the world around her to recognize her as who she intrinsically knows she is.”

“[This resolution] says that who she knows herself to be is not real or worthy of protection at school,” he added. “It signals to others that she is an acceptable target for bullying.”

Another dad to a transgender girl pleaded with the Board to scrap the resolution.

“I love my kid with all my heart. Let my kid be her best self and life her best life,” he said. “To do that, all you have to do is leave her alone.”

Experts denounce the resolution a third time, support trans youth

Representatives from Kaleidoscope Youth Center, YWCA Columbus, the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) and Equitas Health each publicly condemned the resolution.

Lisa Vahey — parent, educator and co-founder of Honesty for Ohio Education — also spoke against the resolution, calling it damaging and shameful.

Addressing an ongoing piece if misinformation concerning sex characteristics and chromosomes, Julie Posey — a physiologist at Columbus State Community College — reminded the Board that intersex people exist, and that sex assignment is biologically complex.

“As many as 1 in 100 people may have some sort of intersex condition, which is not binary,” Posey said. “Many chromosomes contain gender characteristics, and these chromosomes contain over 25 genes.”

Posey also presented a statement signed by more than a dozen of her colleagues condemning the resolution and its scientific inaccuracies.

“We refute this anti-transgender rhetoric,” the statement read. “This continues a dialogue that has no basis in fact. Resolutions like this are dangerous.”

Board will vote in December

The full Board of Education is set to vote on the resolution during its December meeting.

Regardless of the outcome, for dedicated parents and allies like Minna Zelch, the fight to protect their transgender children from discrimination and harassment at school is far from over.

“It’s Trans Awareness Week, and I spent day one listening cisgender individuals talk about the worth of my child,” Zelch said. “I am begging you to see my kid, and kids like her, as worth protecting.” 

“To all LGBTQ+ kids in Ohio, you deserve better,” Zelch added. “I am profoundly sorry that there are adults in your state government that can’t see you for who you are: wonderful, amazing, beautiful humans.”

Ignite Action:

  • For list of State Board of Education members and how to contact them, click here
  • For more information about the Honesty for Ohio Education Coalition, click here

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