A new version of Ohio House Bill 8, commonly known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights, eliminates staff discretion to withhold information about a student’s mental, emotional or physical health if a “reasonably prudent” person would conclude that such disclosures could result in abuse, abandonment or neglect. The bill’s sponsors believe parents have the right to know all information concerning their children; however Democrats and children’s advocates worry that the bill’s language could subject children to harm and force teachers to choose between the law and protecting children.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the current version of Ohio House Bill 8 would require teachers “to share health information about students − even if they suspected it would result in parental abuse or neglect − if an amendment added to an education bill Tuesday becomes law.”
Proponents of the law in its amended form, including Republicans on the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, don’t want educators to withhold health information or potential treatments from parents. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond said, “Teachers should not have the right to withhold information from parents. That the parent is responsible for raising the child.”
Culture War Accusations
Opponents of this bill see it as a broader attack on LGBTQ civil rights. Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation has been introduced all over the country in an effort to exploit parents’ real concerns for political gain by waging a culture war.
Sarah Szilagy of NBC4.com reports that while “Gender” and “sexuality” do not appear anywhere in a proposed bill, it is seen as an attack on these topics. Teachers, social workers and other school personnel refrain from disclosing students’ LGBTQ+ status or exploration to parents who may be unsupportive because it’s best practice as outlined by professional standards, said Maria Bruno, the public policy director of Equality Ohio.
“Parents who do not wish for their children to be taught about diversity and encouraged to be tolerant are not acting in the best interest of their children.
Parents at odds with their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity and who express intolerance about it are harming their children. This might not always rise to the level of reportable child abuse, but it is abusive, and no educator who cares about kids should support it,” writes opinion columnist and former teacher Larry Strauss.
“The safety and well-being of our students is our first priority,” Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said. “It is concerning that language intended to protect students from potential abuse would be removed from this bill.”