The "Divisive Content" bill to limit classroom content could affect more than K-12 schools
The bill that would ban the teaching of divisive content has been changed a dozen times. The latest version of the bill hasn't been fully debated in a public hearing at the State and Local Government Committee where the legislation is being debated. So, a coalition including more than 30 organizations and hundreds of Ohioans from across the state, is speaking out about the latest iteration, hoping to thwart this bill. The group says it "threatens the freedom to learn about our country’s full and complicated history and how it impacts our lives today."
Cynthia Peeples, the founding director for the group, Honesty for Ohio Education, says there have been committee hearings on various versions of this bill though none since it was last revised. Still, she says her group knows lawmakers could move in and pass it quickly if they wanted to. "Every time that we hear this bill is going to move, every time we smell this bill is going to move, we are going to advocate, we are going to activate and we are going to mobilize across this state. Ohioans do not want this bill," Peeples says.
Republicans nationwide as well as here in Ohio have been talking a lot about parental rights when it comes to what students are being taught. Critical Race Theory, a graduate school concept not taught in K-12 schools in Ohio, is often referred to as the catchphrase for teaching about issues involving race or gender. The Republican sponsors of this legislation say it would give parents more of a voice in what their children learn. In addition to this bill, there is another that would ban the teaching of so-called "critical race theory" in Ohio public schools. Many elements of that bill are contained in HB327, the bill to ban divisive content. While Americans for Prosperity opposes the bill, it is backed by some conservative groups. John Stover, president of Ohio Value Voters, provided lawmakers with testimony, saying "there's been a massive surge of Critical Race Theory training in K-12 schools."
Opponents say there is a lot at stake here
Recently, the College Board, which accredits high school AP classes, laid out seven principles that must be met in order for students to get credit. Those include "fostering an open-minded approach to the histories and cultures of different peoples." The College Board also says it opposes indoctrination and censorship. The College Board declined to be interviewed further for this story.
Colleges professors themselves are worried about this bill. Sara Kilpatrick, executive director, Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors, says it would make it hard for professors at Ohio's colleges to share their knowledge freely with students. "Many faculty would have to choose between sharing their knowledge with their students or threaten their institution's funding or their own jobs. Implementation of this legislation could jeopardize accreditation for academic programs and institutions on the whole. It would discourage the best and brightest faculty and students from teaching and learning in Ohio," Kilpatrick says.
The bill affects more than teachers and students
The bill is in the State and Local Government Committee, not the House Education Committee. Gary Daniels, the chief lobbyist for the Ohio ACLU, says one reason this could be the case is that the bill applies to political subdivisions. For example, if a police chief thinks his mostly white officers are arresting too many people of color and suspects unconscious bias might be why, Daniels says that chief could be prohibited from offering training that addresses the problem.
Gary Daniels with @acluohio says the Ohio bill to ban divisive content doesn't just affect K-12 schools. He says it also affects public professions. For instance, he says it would prevent a police chief from doing things like unconscious bias training for officers pic.twitter.com/i9vMrSPIyX— "The State Of Ohio" PBS News Program (@stateofohioshow) March 9, 2022
"It would prevent, by its very language, that proactive police chief or proactive sheriff from offering diversity training of this type to correct these issues. And that's just one of the many problems. K-12 schools are problematic enough but now we are stretching this across all political subdivisions and all state agencies and departments," Daniels says.