Friday, January 27

Ohio’s State Board of Education passed a sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ resolution. What happens next?

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Over the past four months, hundreds of LGBTQ+ students, allies, educators, healthcare professionals and community leaders have stood before the Ohio State Board of Education.

Each testified against a sweeping anti-transgender resolution that would officially reject Title IX language designed to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination in Ohio’s public schools.

On Tuesday — in a move that defies mainstream research and guidance concerning LGBTQ+ youth — board members voted to pass the resolution 11-7.

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, more than 300 people have submitted testimony in opposition to the resolution, which contained religious language and several major scientific inaccuracies even after State Board Member Mike Toal amended the text in November.

What’s in the resolution?

Shea’s resolution officially rejects a set of proposed guidelines issued by the Biden Administration that would protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity under federal Title IV laws.

Currently, the guidelines are still just proposals, and are already tied up in a massive lawsuit.

In August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost added the state to a list of 20 others currently suing the federal government to stop the changes.

The resolution could affect which Ohio schools receive federal funding for school lunch programs. In public school systems like Akron — where all students are eligible for free meals — the entire nutrition program could be jeopardized.

The resolution also denies the existence of intersex students, who might be born with any combination of sex characteristics or sex chromosomes, and currently account for about 1.7 percent of all live births in the United States.

The resolution contains language condemning transgender girls and young women from playing women’s sports in Ohio public schools and requires educators and encourages other school staff to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents or guardians, even when it may not be safe.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 LGBTQ+ Youth Report, only a quarter of LGBTQ+ youth report having a supportive environment at home.

Ohio’s LGBTQ+ youth loudly speak out

LGBTQ+ students and their allies have traveled to Columbus from across the state to testify 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,” said 13-year old Bradie Anderson, an eighth grade student in the Ohio public school system. “Where does it end for kids like me? Where are we supposed to go? We just want to be left alone like everyone else.”

Trans youth advocate Cam Odgen and her mother, Jeanne Odgen, testified multiple times in opposition to the resolution. So too did the mother of Ember Zelch — the only transgender girl currently approved by the Ohio High School Sports Association to compete in high school sports.

Advocates from the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland and Kaleidoscope Youth Center (KYC) also testified multiple times, directly addressing disinformation and reading statements directly from LGBTQ+ youth who could not be physically present.

Amanda Erickson, KYC’s Director of Education and Outreach, said during public testimony Tuesday that the organization offered board members a chance to attend an educational program to help them better navigate issues pertaining to Ohio’s LGBTQ+ youth.

Erickson said she received just one response, declining the invitation.

‘A shameful attack on LGBTQ+ youth’

Representatives from the ACLU of Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Ohio Education Association, YWCA Columbus and the Ohio Children’s Defense Fund each publicly condemned the resolution, along with representatives from myriad LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations from across the state.

In a written statement, HRC called the vote disgraceful and a “shameful attack on LGBTQ+ youth.”

A group of more than a dozen physiologists and other scientists from Columbus Community College also submitted a letter opposing the resolution. 

State and local politicians also condemned the vote, including State Representative Phil Robinson and State Senator Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) — who called the resolution part of the systematic bullying and stigmatization of LGBTQ+ students.

“[The Ohio State Board of Education] should instead be focused on ensuring all kids can learn, grow and excel in an inclusive environment,” Antonio said in a written statement. “LGBTQ+ youth already experience far higher rates of bullying and suicide than their peers; this resolution will only exacerbate that. Prioritizing politics over the lives of some of our most vulnerable children is sickening, and it is a dereliction of duty on behalf of the Board of Education.”

What happens next?

Next, the Board of Education will send individual letters to each of Ohio’s 611 school districts, informing them of their decision to reject the new protections.

While the resolution rejects a set of federal guidelines that are not yet enforceable, its approval marks a larger shift in culture that has placed transgender students at the center of a manufactured narrative about who they are as individuals.

Last week, the far-right, neo-fascist, extremist hate group the Proud Boys shut down a Columbus drag storytime event for children, baselessly accusing drag performers and other LGBTQ+ people of child abuse.

In just the first three months of 2022 alone, nearly 240 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation were either introduced at the state level or signed into law.

That trend shows no signs of slowing.

As school board members voted to pass Shea’s resolution, members of the Ohio House reviewed HB 151, which would have banned trans girls and young women from competing in women’s sports in Ohio. 

HB 151 failed to pass the Ohio legislature in a 2:30am vote — for reasons far more to do with the 2,000 pages tacked on at the last minute regarding educational reform than with banning trans youth from athletics — but the hearings themselves have taken an emotional and psychological toll on LGBTQ+ people and communities across the state — particularly for transgender students.

Advocates like Amanda Erickson and Honesty for Ohio Education’s Cynthia Peeples said LGBTQ+ students are exhausted by the legislative attacks on their personhood.

“Thank you to everyone who has shown up, testified, and contacted board members throughout the past four months,” Kaleidoscope Youth Center said in a December 13 tweet, just after board members passed. “Your efforts to stand up for LGBTQIA+ students have still made a difference, and they don’t go unnoticed! This fight isn’t over.” 🔥

About Author

H.L. Comeriato is the staff writer for The Buckeye Flame. A queer and non-binary writer and reporter from Akron, Ohio, they covered public health for The Devil Strip via Report for America.

Share this piece.