On Monday, April 4, House Bill 616 was introduced in Ohio's House of Representatives. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Mike Loychik and Jean Schmidt, would ban the teaching of “divisive or inherently racist” concepts, as well as restrict school districts from teaching the concepts of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.
H.B. 616's definition of “divisive or inherently racist concepts” includes: critical race theory; intersectional theory; The 1619 Project; diversity, equity, and inclusion learning outcomes; inherited racial guilt; as well as “any other concept that the state board of education defines as divisive or inherently racist[.]”
The bill was introduced following Florida's passing of H.B. 1557, widely referred to as the “Don't Say Gay” bill, late last month. H.B. 616 borrows provisions of the Florida law that would prohibit Ohio's school districts and educators from teaching the concepts of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3, and only in an “age-appropriate or developmentally-appropriate manner” in grades 4-12.
The bill also includes a mechanism for individuals, such as concerned parents, to file complaints against teachers and administrators for suspected violations through the state board of education. Under the proposed law, consequences for teaching a prohibited subject would range from official admonishment to suspension or revocation of an educator's license. Furthermore, the bill would eliminate continuing education credits for teachers from seminars or programs related to prohibited topics.
At this stage, it is unclear how much support H.B. 616 has in the legislature. However, Ohio is one of several states with pending legislation seeking to follow Florida's example. PKM attorneys will continue to monitor the progress of the bill as it develops.