League of Women Voters discusses HB 327 and 322

Leah Shadle and Leah Shadle

On Sept. 8, the League of Women Voters of Bowling Green hosted an online forum, “Honesty in Education”, to draw attention to and provide information about Ohio House Bills 322 and 327. 

The forum, moderated by Steve Kendall, included speakers Cynthia Peeples, Clayton Kalaf-Hughes, Patrick Pauken, Ana Brown, Arianna Bustos, Todd Cramer and Ellie Boyle. The speakers ranged from education and political science students to AP history teachers and superintendents.

HB 322 and 327 both oppose the teaching of Critical Race Theory in pre-K-12 schools. HB 327 takes it a step further to also include higher education and political subdivisions.

Neither bill provides a precise definition of CRT.

Both bills were created and are co-sponsored by only Republican representatives — all of whom are white except for two —, according to information available on the The Ohio House of Representatives website.

Speakers in the forum brought up the fact that both bills are intentionally, and as Patrick Pauken said, unlawfully, vague. They seek to ban discussions of “divisive and controversial” topics and introduce legal punishments for the teaching of any topic under that umbrella. HB 327 lists that as a penalty for a violation, schools could lose federal funding, teachers could lose their licenses or be terminated and families are encouraged to take civil action against that employee, school or district.

Divisive topics, as discussed by forum members, include slavery, the Holocaust, the Ku Klux Klan. The bills state that teachers should approach these “divisive and controversial” topics from both sides. As forum speakers and audience members alike said, history education should focus on facts.

As stated in the HB 327 legislation text, “The United States is fundamentally racist or sexist” and “Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by a particular nationality, color, ethnicity, race, or sex to oppress another nationality, color, ethnicity, race, or sex” are examples of “divisive concepts” that will not be allowed to be taught in classrooms without instructors being impartial. 

Throughout the forum hosted on Zoom, audience members shared their views and concerns in regards to the two bills. They were also given the opportunity to ask questions.

Zakarey Carpenter, an audience member, commented, “As a non-binary student soon starting medical transition, my very existence is going to be a ‘divisive issue.’ My question is what happens when my self-advocacy enters the classroom? If my existence is divisive, how am I to be affirmed and supported by educators and how am I to trust my educators to stand up for my rights in the classroom? The same applies to other marginalized groups.”

They expressed a valid concern, echoed by other members of the audience who also expressed their support to Carpenter.

Another audience member, Kylee Jumer said, “A lot of talk about ‘perspectives’ which worries me, how can anyone have a truthful perspective of a past event which they did not witness themselves? Facts are to be taught, not opinions of people in the past or present- otherwise history will just become alleged events, it will lose all credibility. In order for our youth to get an unbiased education of our history and receive a fair education, opinions need to be left out of the curriculum. Facts are not subjective. History is not abstract.”

Both bills have been proposed and are currently pending in House Committees. They are available to read in their entirety on The Ohio House of Representatives website.