The removal of staff-worn LGBTQ badges is being demanded by a number of parents from central Ohio who are suing Hilliard City Schools in federal court because teachers are engaging in “intimate sexual conversations” with pupils as young as 6 years old.
In the case, Ohio Republican Council of Clubs‘ attorney Joshua Brown said he represents parents who claim activist instructors are conducting private conversations with their children about sexuality and mental health while keeping those conversations hidden from parents.
“The schools do not have the right to withhold information from parents for any reason. Especially when it involves mental health. When you are denying parents the knowledge their child is having mental distress, you are literally robbing the parents the opportunity to show their children, unconditional love,” Lisa Chaffee, director of Ohio Parents Rights in Education and one of the eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit said.
According to the filing, the school district asked students in a written survey which pronouns they preferred to use in class and which pronouns they preferred teachers use when communicating with parents. Parents also alleged that a teacher put “sexual materials” on a bulletin board.
Hilliard City Schools Superintendent David Stewart told The Ohio Star that he has “made it clear to our administration that Hilliard City Schools does not support surveying students on this topic or in this context getting to know new students.”
He additionally commented that although “it may not be the best practice, it is not illegal.”
The case is the most recent dispute in the district over LGBTQ issues. Parents raised concerns in September about several teachers who were seen donning “I’m Here” badges provided by the National Education Association and the Hilliard Education Association.
The “I’m Here” proponents say the badge is designed to signal “a message of inclusion and safety.” However, parents voiced their concerns that the two-sided badges feature a QR code that links to a website that offers information on how to get additional badges and includes several links to a network of sponsors and affiliated organizations supporting the program.
In addition to the teacher’s unions, the website lists its supporting organizations, which include GLSEN, Alliance Medical Center, and the WEA LGBTQ Caucus, along with 44 other partners in support. The website also contains LGBTQ+ book lists for children and a resource guide.
The “I’m Here” LGBTQ badge program and website are by the NEA- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer caucus.
According to Chaffee, students are getting access to the badges, which expose them to explicit information via the QR code and the website connected to it. The website contains numerous links which direct the viewer to various additional websites and sources about topics such as masturbation, bondage, and sexting.
Stewart told The Star that the school district has since requested that teachers who wear the badge cover the QR code that directs users to the website with sexually explicit content.
The lawsuit asks the federal courts to prohibit the wearing of “I’m Here” badges, prohibit teachers from discussing gender and sexuality with students without parental permission, and prohibit the district from withholding from parents information about sexual activity and mental health that a student had disclosed to school staff.
The lawsuit calls these discussions with students and the “I’m Here” badges, while perhaps well-intentioned, a “recipe for indoctrination and child abuse.”
Parents cite an Ohio Board of Education resolution that rejects the proposed changes to broaden the definition of sex-based harassment and discrimination to include gender identity and sexual orientation for LGBTQ students. The proposed rules “require that K–12 schools socially transition minor children to a different gender without requiring parental consent,” according to the resolution. It also instructs the acting superintendent of public instruction to distribute copies of the resolution to all Ohio public schools to make it clear that the board opposes the changes.
Stewart told The Star that “making broad-brush accusations such as those in this lawsuit detract from the district’s mission and the educational efforts of our dedicated staff and teachers.” The district has about 910 teachers and 16,500 students, according to its website.
Brown told The Star that “the parents are not asking for any monetary damages. The parents are asking the court for a declaratory judgment that would affirm their firmly established constitutional rights to direct the upbringing of their children.”
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “I’m Here Sticker” by NEA. Background Photo “School Board Meeting” by Lisa Breedlove Chaffee.