Community Leaders Discuss Impacts of Pending Ohio Bills

By Jordyn Taylor
The Truth Reporter

Out of concern for the future of Ohio classrooms, a diverse panel of community leaders gathered at Jesup W. Scott High School on Wednesday evening, May 11, to discuss the grim outlooks of three recent bills introduced to the Ohio House of Representatives.

House Bills 327 and 616 combined would prohibit schools from teaching concepts that are considered “divisive” or “inherently racist” with the threat of withholding state funding or revoking licenses when found in compliance. House Bill 454, also known as the SAFE Act, restructures the guidelines on recognizing a student’s gender or sexuality in the classroom.

The panel was moderated by Lynne Hamer, PhD, professor of Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education in the Judith Herb College of Education at the University of Toledo, and included Ruth Leonard, educator and community activist at the Community Solidarity Response Network (CSRN); Shawn Nelson, Attorney at Law (Marshall & Melhorn, LLC); Daniel Pearlman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo; Max Venia, recent graduate of the University of Toledo’s Judith Hope College of Education at the University of Toledo and Lucas Camuso-Stall, director of Government Relations for the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

A recurring theme throughout the discussion was the ambiguous language of the bills and how it creates a large gray area on what is or is not to be taught in the classrooms.

“We are deeply concerned about the lack of clarity on what constitutes a “divisive” topic… This lack of clarity can lead to unintended or potentially intended consequences. We’re concerned that topics surrounding the Holocaust for example as potentially divisive and thus not worthy to teach.” said Pearlman. “The same goes for other essential chapters of history. Whether it’s the Civil Rights Movement or the legacy of slavery, these are topics which must be taught to our future leaders”.

Leonard believes that this attack on Ohio classrooms is unnecessary.

“It [H.B. 616] is intentionally implementing legally-bound ignorance on the next generation of learners. It is removing the truth from the classroom and refuses to acknowledge the humanity of students who are anything other than straight, white males,” Leonard said.

Shawn Nelson, an attorney who focuses on Education Law, agreed, stating that this is “a solution looking for a problem.”