A fourth hearing was held on Tuesday at the Ohio Statehouse for House Bill 8, the “Parents’ Bill of Rights.”
If passed, the bill would force all teachers and school staff—including social workers and school counselors—to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents.
According to the bill’s language, schools must “notify a student’s parent of any change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.”
The bill was amended in April to add “counseling services,” now requiring parental notification of anything a student shares during confidential counseling sessions.
Tuesday’s hearing was opponent testimony: those testifying against the bill in front of the Primary and Secondary Education committee.
Here are 18 of the most memorable quotes from this fourth hearing.
1. “First we would like to reassure this committee and all legislators that collaboration with parents is already a key tenant of what school counselors do.”—Renee Stack, Ohio School Counselor Association, kicking off testimony by attempting to dispel the bill supporters’ talking points that nefarious school staff have the goal of withholding information from parents.
2. “Our primary ethical obligation for confidentiality is to our students. We believe a balance can be achieved between that and parental involvement, but unfortunately House Bill 8 crosses that boundary to the point of creating unworkable requirements for school counselors that could be detrimental to students.”—Stack, who explained that it is untenable to require school counselors to conduct parental notification for every new emotion a student expresses, given that counselors have hundreds of students in their caseload.
3. “Asking school counselors to wait until they are confident that actual statutorily reportable abuse is occurring before making judgment calls to protect a student from harmful emotional stress is a dereliction of our duty to serve and support students as our primary obligation.”—Stack, speaking about the part of the bill previously removed by Republicans that allowed school personnel to use their judgment in withholding parental notification if the counselor had a reasonable belief that the resulting situation would be unsafe for that student.
4. “Should this bill pass, all students are likely going to be presented with a message at the start of next school year, ‘Due to recent legislation, school staff are now required to report to your families.’ This message will likely be jarring and feel like a violation for students.”—Heather Fairs, Ohio School Counselor Association.
5. “Trust is at the core of what we do. That’s where the magic happens. Without that trust with their school counselor, students will undoubtedly hesitate before coming to us.”—Fairs, explaining how that hesitation could lead to harmful emotional and academic effects on students in Ohio.
6. “The child belongs to the parent, not the state.”—Rep. Josh Williams (R-Oregon), seemingly not seeing the irony between this declaration and his support of bills like HB 68 banning gender-affirming care, in which the state would get between parents determining the best medical care for their children.
7. “Lauding itself as a ‘Parents Bill of Rights,’ these rights are already well established and protected under the law.”—Savannah Carlstrom Page, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, one of many witnesses who highlighted that Ohio law already requires that public schools establish policies that allow parents to be actively involved in their children’s education and maintain “consistent and effective” communication between parents and their children’s schools.
8. “The bill‘s proponents would like to protect a parent’s right to harm their child, particularly if that child identifies with the LGBTQIA+ community.”—Carlstrom Page.
9. “It is interesting to me to note that we have lawmakers asking you all who are testifying here today for better ways to help communicate [between] minor children and parents. This bill is clearly not it.”—Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park), a few moments after Vice Chair Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) asked witnesses to come up with better language to help schools communicate with parents.
10. “It is not the goal of school personnel to keep information from parents. In fact, it is the opposite, as we know that parental support is one of the primary ways that youth mental health is improved.”—Danielle Smith, National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter.
11. “Students will simply not talk to school personnel about their concerns if this is passed.“—Smith.
12. “Not only does this bill dismiss devastating rates of abuse, violence and suicide of LGBTQ+ youth in their own homes, it also rejects the professional recommendations and protocol of trained medical, legal and education experts around these very complicated issues of gender identity and sexuality.”—Cynthia Peeples, Honesty for Ohio Education.
13. “In Ohio, the first public schoolhouse was built in 1772. My guess is some students immediately sought support from a teacher for their problems or to escape toxic home environments and it has been that way ever since. Surely there are people in this room, perhaps on this committee, who once confided something in a trusted adult in school they never would have or did with their friends, their classmates, or their parents. House Bill 8 acknowledges this dynamic and eviscerates it.”—Gary Daniels, ACLU of Ohio.
14. “Pass HB 8 and word will get out quickly among students. ‘Guidance counselors, nurses, teachers, the school, they can’t be trusted anymore. We’re going to have to find somewhere else to go with our problems assuming something else exists.’ For a lot of kids, something else does not exist.”—Daniels.
15. “Proponents of this bill specifically conflated the acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ identities with ‘sexually explicit content.’ To someone who is offended by the mere existence of LGBTQ+ people, the mention of [LGBTQ+] identity is implicitly a reference to sexually explicit content. This has the potential to severely censor families of LGBTQ+ people.”—Maria Bruno, Equality Ohio, speaking about the less talked about part of the bill that requires parent notification regarding “sexually explicit content” materials in the curriculum.
16. “This is teacher appreciation week and that’s why I’m here.”—Dion Manley, Gahanna-Jefferson School Board, highlighting the irony around appreciating teachers at a hearing for a bill that demonizes teachers as the enemy of parents.
17. “If kids aren’t telling their parents, there is a reason. Forcing that conversation can destroy families who are not equipped to deal with it.”—Jeanne Ogden, mom of a trans child, who shared her family’s story in which Ogden said she was not as supportive as she could have been when her child came out to her.
18. “You are considering a bill that will increase the likelihood that children will take their own lives.”—Dr. Jennifer Simkins-Bullock, a neuropsychologist, summing things up. 🔥
- Contact the members of the Primary and Secondary Education committee to make your thoughts known on HB 8.
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