(The Center Square) – A suburban Columbus school district has 21 days to respond to a federal lawsuit the school’s superintendent said is filled with misstatements and mischaracterizations.
The litigation filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio wants teachers in the Hilliard City School District to stop talking to students about gender and sexuality without parental consent and alleges the schools are keeping sexual activity and mental health information from parents.
Joshua Brown, the attorney for the eight parents, said Thursday he expects to file an amendment complaint at some point with more parents joining the lawsuit. The parents are not seeking monetary damages; rather, they want the court to issue a declaratory judgement that they say would “firmly establish constitutional rights to direct the upbringing of their children,” according to a news release from the parents.
Hilliard Superintendent Dave Stewart said the district plans to be transparent and defend the lawsuit.
“Hilliard City Schools is committed to a transparent and vigorous defense against this lawsuit, which is notably filled with misstatements of fact and mischaracterizations,” Stewart said. “We look forward to filing our response with the court. In the meantime, the lawsuit makes certain accusations which have little to do with the legal arguments, but about which we believe it is important to set the record straight – with facts.”
The parents claim the district allows teachers, rather than trained counselors, to solicit information from students as young as 6 years old about sexual behaviors, sexual attitudes, mental and psychological questions about the student and student’s family, and private religious practices.
“This is done, not only without parental consent and knowledge, but the teachers are taking specific actions to hide these conversations from parents. Although, perhaps well-intentioned, this is a recipe for indoctrination and child abuse,” according to the news release.
Stewart, the superintendent, said in a statement, “The lawsuit raises the issue of questionnaires that our teachers use to get to know their students better at the beginning of the school year. An example used in the lawsuit included questions about what pronouns a student prefers the teacher use when referring to them and what pronouns the student wants used in communications between the school and parents. While this was not a practice of the district’s or even a majority of our teachers, when this issue was brought to my attention, I made clear to our administration that Hilliard City Schools does not support surveying students on this topic or in this context of getting to know new students. Since that time, we have followed up and every teacher and administrator in every building should be aware of our guidance on this issue. While it may not be best practice, it is not illegal.”
The parents also want the court to stop district teachers from having “intimate sexual conversations” from children and hiding them from their parents. And they want to stop teachers from wearing “I’m Here” badges that parents say contain a QR code that directs people to a website that contains sexually explicit material.
“These badges were issued by the Hilliard Education Association (the teachers’ union) for teachers to show support for students in the LGBTQ+ community and support fair treatment of every student. The front of the badges, the part visible to students, simply read – “I’m Here” – with colored stripes symbolizing support of LGBTQ+ rights. And that is all,” Stewart said in a statement.
He further explained, “The backs of the badges included a QR code for teachers that provided a link to websites with support resources. We learned that by clicking out from some of those support resources, it was possible to arrive at objectionable material inappropriate for students. I discussed this with the Hilliard Education Association president and we immediately agreed that the QR codes on the backs of the badges should be covered so that they would not be visible in any way when being worn by teachers. That has been done and we are not aware of any student accessing the QR code or materials.”