By Dawn Scotland
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter
A town hall was held Wednesday, October 8, at the University of Toledo by the Department of Educational Studies. The event “The Future of Education: Divisive Concepts in the Classroom” featured four local experts discussing the implications of pending House Bill 322 and House Bill 327.
House Bill 322 summarized:
“Pending Ohio legislation that prohibits the teaching, instructing, promoting, and advocating of “Prohibited Concepts” that center on Race and Sex in Pre K-12 Schools.”
House Bill 327 summarized:
“Pending Ohio legislation that prohibits the teaching, instructing, promoting, and advocating of “Divisive Concepts” in Pre K-12, Higher Education, and Political Subdivisions. Violations incur severe penalties, including: suspension and revocation of licensure, denial of tenure and employment and withholding up to 100% of state funding.”
Similar bills have already passed in nine states in the crusade against the teaching of so-called “Critical Race Theory” in the education system. Four panelists offered their expertise in the discussion.
The bills are vague and have far reaching implications.
Restricting the Truth
“Divisive” is defined as “tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.” With the language used in these bills such topics as slavery, Jim Crow and topics on sex and gender can be eliminated and barred from teaching in classrooms.
Taking away from the power of the local school system to create its curriculum
The local school board has the power to create its own curriculum, and this takes that away. In Toledo, this would eradicate the teaching of an afro-centric curriculum, according to Sheena Barnes Toledo Public School Board Member.
Barring free speech
“Whether you agree or not [on subject matter] you should be deeply troubled by the idea that a state legislature can censor and idea,” said Shawn Nelson, education lawyer and attorney at Marshall Melhourn, LLC. “We should all be deeply concerned about the precedent this sets.” The barring of free speech can extend well beyond House Bill 322 and 327.
The bills sanction strict penalties
Materials may be completely thrown out. Students can be ineligible to receive course credit. Schools that do not adhere to the bill may lose up to 100 percent of state funding and an educator may lose license, tenue or and/or employment.
The barring of speech and materials and strict penalties to offenders is akin more to communist China or 1930s fascist Nazi Germany. The policing of information and ideas are contrary to the notions that this country was predicated on, pointed out Darold Johnson, Director of Legislation at Ohio Federation of Teachers. Americans should be concerned about what this can lead to.
Following the discussion, the panel answered questions from attendees in person and online. Many attending asked about how to take action to stop the legislation. Answers included visiting HonestyForOhioEducation.info, writing to local legislature, spreading the word about the bills on social media and voting in elected officials that hold likeminded values.
The panelists for the night included Sheena Barnes, community advocate, executive Director of Equality Toledo and Toledo Public Schools Board Member; Darold Johnson, public policy advocate and Director of Legislation at Ohio Federation of Teachers; Shawn Nelson, Attorney at Law (Marshall Melhorn, LLC) and Robyn Lewis, future counselor and Psychology student at the University of Toledo.