Statement to Oppose House Bill 616
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
Ohio School Psychologists Association
The Ohio School Psychologists Association (OSPA) expresses its strong opposition to Ohio House Bill 616 as well as its legislative attempts to delimit the discussion of human sexuality concepts in public schools. The purpose of House Bill 616 is to ensure that children and teens will not have exposure to sexual or gender content matter in the educational arena and instead that such instruction will come exclusively through their families. Currently, across the United States, children and adolescents have open access to human sexuality information, misinformation, and explicit materials throughout their daily lives far beyond school environments. Young people access these concepts through social media, the internet, printed materials, movies, music, peer/adult interactions, and overheard conversations. Gender diversity equally occurs through all the same sources as students encounter gender stereotypes, gender expression, and family expectations of gender. Even experiencing traditional, heterosexual family systems and cisgender individuals are still statements about gender and sexuality themselves.
House Bill 616 would prohibit the discussion of human sexuality concepts in K-12 education, which may lead to many unintended and potentially harmful consequences, regardless of one’s political identification. Even if these discussions become prohibited, these discussions will continue to take place and students will have exposure to such content. The influence educators and other adults can have is through the provision of unbiased, scientifically based information, shared in developmentally appropriate language, and engaging with children and teens through supportive and honest discussions about sexuality concepts. Students should be empowered to think critically and thoroughly about society, all while engaged in conversations that honor all learners' unique background and identity. To have these crucial conversations, where students are primed to unlock higher levels of thinking, analysis and overall learning, it is imperative for students to interact and communicate in spaces in which they feel acknowledged and safe.
This bill would also prohibit educators from receiving credit for any continuing education on topics of diversity, which would greatly harm students, educators, the public school system, and the future for Ohio. Educators need to be equipped with the proper research-based information to create an inclusive environment that promotes the wellbeing of all students, inclusive of those who are gender or sexually diverse. Many students do not have equal access to comprehensive information about potentially divisive sexuality concepts within their homes and often depend on competent educators with training and expertise in science and human relationships to serve as sources of information. Such efforts support and provide honest, factual responses to their questions without bias or agenda. These instructional efforts have significant public health benefits, including delaying early sexual activities, reducing unwanted pregnancies, mitigating sexual abuse, advancing physical and behavioral health selfcare, and ultimately saving lives by affirming the dignity of every learner.