Columbus Metropolitan Club Hosts Panel on Ohio House ‘Divisive Concepts’ Bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Metropolitan Club hosted a panel Wednesday on Ohio House Bill 616, which opponents have dubbed a “don’t say gay” bill.

The panel included President Scott DiMauro of the Ohio Education Association, Executive Director Densil Porteous of Stonewall Columbus, Director of Public Policy Maria Bruno of Equality Ohio, Executive Director Troy McIntosh of the Ohio Christian Education Network, and Bruce Hooley , host of the Bruce Hooley Show. The discussion was moderated by USA Today Gannett Ohio Bureau reporter Anna Staver.

According to the text of the bill, HB 616 would prohibit schools from teaching “dividing or inherently racist concepts,” including sexual orientation and gender identity for students between kindergarten and third grade. During the panel, Hooley said the bill is limited to “curriculum and instruction” and in no way prohibits “conversations.” Hooley further explained that the topics teachers discuss with students and questions students may ask are not “covered” in the bill.

“This is indicative of the alarmist rhetoric you’ve heard about Bill 616 – which [students] will be marginalized, they will be pushed into the closet, they won’t be able to talk about their relationships at home, that’s just not true,” Hooley said.

Still, DiMauro said the bill was deliberately vague, saying the state could expect numerous lawsuits if the bill becomes law.

“What is undeniable about this legislation is that it is about fearmongering, and by fearmongering educators and fearmongering students, we are shutting down important conversations that need to happen in our schools. “, DiMauro said.

Staver noted that opponents of the bill and a Florida law have dubbed the legislation “Don’t Say Gay,” even though the words “gay,” “lesbian,” and “transgender” don’t appear in the wording of the bill. law Project. The wording of HB 616 is similar to Florida’s “parental rights in education” Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law in late March, sparking statewide protests and a government showdown with Disney World, one of the largest employers. private Florida.

Bruno explained that the bill got its nickname because of its alleged impact, saying there will be teachers who avoid talking about such topics, like sexuality and race, because they fear crossing a line.

“As we mentioned, the language is very vague and could be weaponized,” Bruno said.

McIntosh likened the bill to the separation of church and state provided for in the Constitution and drew comparisons to how a public school teacher cannot teach the Christian faith.

“We shouldn’t be teaching existential issues like this to kids who are clearly not developmentally ready,” McIntosh said.

Porteous pointed to the “slippery slope” that occurs when talking with young children. As the father of a five-year-old, Porteous said gender and identity came from his daughter on her own.

Beyond sexuality and gender, the bill lists a few specific topics as “diversifying” or “inherently racist,” including critical race theory, intersectional theory, and the 1619 Project, as well as broader prohibitions. on diversity, equity and inclusion learning outcomes.

“Whether [students] aren’t taught, hopefully in a safe, identity-supportive place, the distinction between racism, white supremacy and cultural identity, then they’ll never be able to formally understand who they are as they go as they develop,” Porteous said.

McIntosh argued that “the critical race theory perspective is an overtly Marxist perspective”, claiming that one of the main proponents of the CRT is a Marxist. Staver concluded the discussion by asking the panelists what they wanted the opposition to understand about their position.

“I would appreciate them understanding that my top priority is the mental health and safety of young people in this state,” Bruno said.

DiMauro said he wants supporters of this legislation to understand the bill’s impact on educators, who already feel burnt out.

“These kinds of attacks on curriculum contribute to a culture that alienates people from their role as educators,” DiMauro said.

Hooley emphasized that parents want to protect their children and said some concepts are appropriate for home and others for school.

“I want to make sure people find their happiness, and happiness for a lot of us is in who we are and how we grow,” Porteous said. “If we don’t create spaces where, as adults, we remember what it was like to be young people, and how difficult it would have been to understand and discover who we were, so we have to do the work to make sure that our young people grow up and find spaces where they can grow and understand who they are.

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