Ohio’s State Board of Education on Tuesday heard public comment on a proposed resolution treating biological sex as an “objective, scientific fact” and opposing school policies that seek to blur the lines on this subject.
Board member Brendan Shea (District 5) introduced the measure, which balks at regulations recently proposed by President Joe Biden. If finalized, the federal Department of Education rules would effectively force schools to call gender-dysphoric K-12 students by their preferred names and pronouns rather than their given names and biological pronouns. They would also require school athletic programs to assign children to teams based on avowed gender identity rather than physiological sex.
“Sex is not arbitrarily ‘assigned’ at birth but rather identifies an unchangeable fact,” the Shea resolution reads. “There are observable, quantifiable, and immutable differences between males and females. The reality of biological sex can no more be altered than can the reality that two plus two equals four.”
In response to emerging federal policy, Shea’s policy instructs Ohio’s educational superintendent to inform all Ohio public school districts and institutions that the Ohio Department of Education deems the White House policy invalid and encourages districts to ignore it.
The measure also demurs to a rule effected this June by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which would endanger schools’ access to federal funding for free or reduced-cost meals if they engage in what the White House calls “discrimination based on gender identity.” While Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bars schools from discriminating based on sex, its text does not specify that it pertains to sexual preference or gender identity. A White House notice issued last year however interprets Title IX to apply to those categories.
Shea’s resolution observes that about 100,000 public schools across the Buckeye State receive federal dollars for meal programs and that the federal government’s new interpretation of the law could affect about 516,000 students who qualify for nutritional assistance. The state measure endorses a lawsuit that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed alongside 21 other state attorneys general to kill the Department of Agriculture’s rule. The resolution also urges the Ohio General Assembly to allot money to fill any funding gap that could result from disagreement with federal policy on this matter.
Other state legislation recommended by Shea’s measure includes a requirement that schools inform parents when a child indicates gender-identity confusion as well as a law protecting women and girls’ sports teams against inclusion of biological males.
Cathy Pultz, co-chair of the grassroots Protect Ohio Children Coalition, testified to the board in favor of the resolution, insisting that the Biden policies on gender in educational settings overreaches into the purview of state and local governments.
“As the leaders of the Ohio Department of Education, you have the power to direct Ohio school students; the legislators and governor of Ohio have the authority to direct the education of children,” she said. “Ohio allows local school districts to determine how best to educate their students with direction from the state. The new Title IX proposal takes away all power from the state and local boards by threatening them with the removal of federal funds.”
She furthermore noted the Biden administration bypassed congressional approval of its rule changes, acting unilaterally instead.
American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio policy strategist Seán McCann took the opposite view in his remarks to the board.
“This resolution furthers a culture of intimidating and harassing [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning] youth because of who they are, suggesting that simple steps like using a child’s preferred pronouns should be avoided,” he said. “By calling on the general assembly to require schools to inform parents if their child questions their gender identity, the resolution ignores the reality that some parents may not be supportive of what their child is experiencing … .”
The 22-member State Board of Education is expected to vote on the Shea resolution next month.
– – –
Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Brendan Shea” by Brendan Shea. Background Photo “Ohio Department of Education Building” by Sixflashphoto. CC BY-SA 4.0.