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Ohio GOP Lawmakers Fail to Pass Parents Right to Know Act as Standalone Bill, Most Provisions Added to Budget

July 10, 2021 - Jack Windsor

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio lawmakers failed to pass the Parents Right to Know Act which sought to stop schools from teaching students sexually oriented lessons that go beyond the parameters set by Ohio law without first getting parental permission and providing parents and guardians the instruction materials.

Nevertheless, most of the language that made up the Parents Right to Know Act, also called House Bill 240 (HB-240), was added and passed into law by the 2021 biennium budget bill. The language was not line-item vetoed by Governor Mike DeWine and is now law.

Language passed in the budget states that districts or schools choosing to offer instruction not specified in the Ohio Revised Code on health education – specifically venereal disease and sexual education - “shall notify parents and guardians of the instruction, including the name of any instructor, vendor name, if applicable, and the name of the curriculum being used.”

Specified instruction requirements for health education that preceded the Parents Right to Know Act demand that lessons:
• stress that students should abstain from sexual activity until after marriage;
• teach the potential physical, psychological, emotional, and social side effects of participating in sexual activity outside of marriage;
• teach that conceiving children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parents, and society;
• stress that sexually transmitted diseases are serious possible hazards of sexual activity;
• advise students of the laws pertaining to the financial responsibility of parents to children born in and out of wedlock;
• advise students of the circumstances under which it is criminal to have sexual contact with a person under the age of sixteen;
• emphasize adoption as an option for unintended pregnancies.

The Parents Right to Know Act aimed at enforcing instruction requirements listed above, as well as requiring parents and guardians to pre-approve teaching that went outside the letter of the law.

The bill was drafted after an Ohio school employee in Franklin County blew the whistle on one group – Syntero - that allegedly provided sexually graphic materials containing resources on BDSM, sexting, transgender porn, homemade sex toys and more.

That event cascaded into Ohio Value Voters (OVV) - a civic group with a mission to educate and inform Ohio voters and officials – circulating a video highlighting the explicit material the whistleblower turned over.

The video provided by OVV can be viewed here (warning: the video contains graphic, sexual and mature content - viewer discretion is advised). LINK TO VIDEO

OVV shared the video with several Ohio officials, according to the president of the organization, and recruited Ohio Representatives Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp) and Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Geneva-on-the-Lake) to draft HB-240.

Records obtained by The Ohio Press Network show that members of state government were sent evidence of the materials used in Ohio schools as early as last September – Governor DeWine’s office in January of this year. The Parents Right to Know Act, however, received only one token hearing when the bill sponsors introduced it to the Ohio Primary and Secondary Education Committee at the end of March. The bill sat actionless since.

Under the new law passed in the budget, schools and school boards are not only required to forewarn parents and guardians of venereal disease and sexual education instruction that goes beyond the scope of law, schools and boards are also required, upon request, to provide a parent or guardian of a student the materials pertaining to that instruction.
Additionally, the state Board of Education may not adopt a separate model for health education. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) will conduct an annual audit of each school district to check for compliance with instruction requirements. Those audit findings are to be posted prominently on the ODE website no more than 120 days following the beginning of the school year.

Finally, the state superintendent cannot waive the instruction requirements.
“One of the paramount provisions is the requirement of the Department of Education to conduct annual audits and supply results – this is a depository of all the districts in Ohio,” said John Stover, President of OVV.

The Parents Right to Know Act would have allowed parents and guardians to bring civil action to force schools to comply with the law. However, that language did not make its way into the budget bill because, according to Stoltzfus, one of two primary sponsors of HB-240, “there are too many legislators that are protective of public education and that amount of accountability.”

“ODE is supposed to audit school districts and make the information public. That will give parents the knowledge of what is actually being taught and parents can go directly to the principal or school board,” said Stoltzfus.

He continued, “honestly, if this would have made it through the entire committee process, I believe it would have been watered down to this level,” failing to give parents the right to force compliance.

Four members of the Primary and Secondary Education Committee sponsored the Parents Right to Know Act. Failure to move the bill out of committee and to the floor for a vote as a standalone bill signals the lack of commitment to HB-240 from committee Chairwoman, Representative Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) who did not reassign the measure to another committee.
If the bill had moved along the process and made it to the floor for a vote, it would have forced lawmakers to go on record with support or lack thereof.
Representative Fowler Arthur was contacted for comment but did not respond.
Representative Stoltzfus noted that passing parts of the bill is still a “big win.”
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Jack Windsor is President and Managing Editor of The Ohio Press Network. Jack is also a Statehouse correspondent for WHK-AM1420 in Cleveland. Follow Jack on Twitter @jackwindsor. Submit tips to jack.windsor@theohiopressnetwork.com



Thank you for your prayers and support.

Sincerely,
John Stover, President

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