WCSD Statement on HB616, HB322, and HB327


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The vision of our community for its schools is powerful. Our collective goal as a district and as a community is to provide nurturing schools and learning environments where all young people can explore multiple viewpoints and ideas in a manner that is reflective of the democratic design of our country, state, and local community. 

The collective voice of our Westerville City School District community is reflected in the themes of our Strategic Plan and our adopted values. When engaging the community in the development of these guiding documents, there was a consistent call for our school district to be intentional in supporting ALL students. 

We are fortunate in our district and community to have a diverse, caring, and highly-professional team of educators who are adept at responding to the diverse academic and social emotional needs of our students. Our young people are bright, inquisitive, and eager to learn about not just the world around them, but finding their voice and place in it. As professional educators, we are obligated and committed to providing our students an educational environment where they can grow and learn without fear of asking difficult questions, having uncomfortable conversations with their peers, or simply being themselves. 

We collaborate in those efforts with our families and strive to ensure that the different values and goals they have for their children are reflected in such activities. As we honor our students and who they are, we also honor our families and the aspirations they have for their children.

Therefore, as school leaders, as community members, as parents and as a grandparent, we oppose HB616, HB322, and HB327, Ohio’s version of the controversial measures that have been enacted in other states. Like the legislation in those other states, these bills seek to place restrictions on school systems regarding what and how educators are permitted to teach about certain subjects. 

Our opposition to HB616, HB322, and HB327, as well as any other similar proposed legislation, is based upon the three overarching principles described below.

  1. HB616, HB322, and HB327 are inconsistent with the needs of our students and with our community’s values.

HB616, HB322, and HB327do not support our community's expressed intention to support ALL students. Instead, the bill seeks to quash the recognition and discussion of controversial topics in schools.

Additionally, these bills are based upon several faulty and misguided perceptions. One of those misperceptions regards how sexual orientation, gender identity, and theories of racism are built into our state and local curriculum. Examination of state standards and curriculum across school districts show that many of the expressed concerns lack evidence of the purported issues being touted as reasons for the bill. A second related misperception arises from beliefs about how such topics are presented in textbooks and other materials. Local policies already exist to address curriculum and controversial subjects; examination of those policies show that state intervention is unnecessary and an insult to local communities. Perhaps the greatest misperception is that our classrooms are being used as places for influencing and indoctrinating students. What is often presented as evidence to justify the need for such legislation is anecdotal and an intentional misrepresentation of Ohio’s public schools. Good law is not based on anecdote but instead is grounded in fact.

  1. HB616, HB322, and HB327 are an unnecessary overreach by state legislators into local control of public schools. 

These bills present a set of regulations that are unnecessary in Ohio. Westerville City Schools – like all of Ohio’s public school districts – already has established policies and practices providing for family and community voice in the adoption of curriculum and materials; already has policies regarding how controversial topics are introduced in the classroom; already has and is obligated by non-discrimination policy to protect the rights of our students and staff. All of these policies work in concert to allow the voicing of various viewpoints while protecting the individual rights of families. 

If passed, HB616, HB322, and HB327 would create additional intrusions into Ohio communities and erode local control. These bills diminish – not amplify – the public’s voice in their local school systems. They serve only to reduce the capacity of Ohio’s citizenry to govern, shape, and conduct their local public schools.

  1. HB616, HB322, and HB327are a threat to professional educators that stymies their efforts to address the diverse needs of ALL students. 

These pieces of proposed legislation lack clarity and definition. Of particular concern is a lack of specificity regarding how the bills would be implemented and enforced if passed into law. One thing about these bills is crystal clear: under a purported system of accountability, HB616, HB322, and HB327 are intended to threaten and stifle professional educators. 

Our community values a safe, inclusive environment in which our talented and diverse staff can meet the needs of ALL students each day. Passage of these bills would lead to a rigid, fear-based environment within Ohio’s schools. It would be an environment in which the threat of State punishment for violating poorly-defined regulations supersedes educators' care, compassion, knowledge, and professional judgment. Instead of supporting our educators, HB616, HB322, and HB327 attack and strike at them. 

To reiterate, we oppose HB616, HB322, and HB327, as well as any other similar legislation, because they are antithetical to local control and local values; they create new state level regulations that are already available within local school board policies; and they handcuff our professional educators who are intent on meeting the needs of our diverse student population.  

HB616, HB322, and HB327 fly in the face of the need for leaders at the local, state and national levels to recognize and value teachers as experts in their profession. We call upon our state legislators and the Governor to reject these bills and any other similar legislation in Ohio.

 

WESTERVILLE CITY SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION
Tracy Davidson, President
Jennifer Aultman, Vice-President
Rev. Vaughn Bell
Kristy Meyer

Dr. Nancy Nestor-Baker

SUPERINTENDENT
Dr. John R. Kellogg

TREASURER/CFO
Nicole Marshall