COLUMBUS, Ohio — The superintendent for the Hilliard City School District has issued a statement in response to a lawsuit filed by eight parents accusing "activist teachers" of having conversations with students about sex and gender.
The lawsuit, which was filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio this week, states these conversations are happening with children as young as 6 years old without parental consent and teachers are taking steps to hide them from parents.
The parents claim these events are "a recipe for indoctrination and child abuse."
According to the lawsuit, the parents are asking for an injunction to put an end to these conversations involving teachers or employees who are not trained, supervised counselors.
In a statement released Wednesday, Superintendent David Stewart says the lawsuit is filled with misstatements of facts and mischaracterizations.
While Stewart says the district is looking forward to filing a response with the court, he also addresses some points made by the parents in the lawsuit.
One example cited by the parents refers to a survey given to students asking what pronouns they prefer at school and what pronouns the students prefer the teacher use when speaking to parents.
Stewart said this was not a practice of the district or even a majority of teachers. When it was brought to his attention, he says he made it clear that the district does not support surveying students on this topic.
“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,” he said.
Another issue raised by the parents involves the “I’m here” badges worn by some teachers. The badges were issued by the teachers’ union to show support for students in the LGBTQ community and support fair treatment for every student.
The lawsuit claims the badge and its holder has a QR code linking to material giving "instruction on sexual positions" and suggested books that are not part of the district standards.
They claim the codes can be scanned by students from far away and one student testified at a school board meeting that she was given one of the badges only meant for teachers.
In his statement, Stewart says the front of the badges, the part visible to students, simply has the “I’m here” message with colored stripes symbolizing support of LGBTQ rights.
He says the backs do include a QR code that directs to websites with support material.
When the district learned that it was possible to find “objectionable material inappropriate for students,” through these links, Stewart spoke with the union president and they agreed to cover the codes. He added this was done and they were not aware of any student accessing the codes or materials.
Referring to the parents’ point of counselors, not teachers, should be called when a student’s medical or mental health becomes a concern, Stewart says the district agrees.
“Indeed, the single example cited in the lawsuit involves a student exhibiting the need for mental health counseling who was taken to a professional social worker. The social worker then contacted and met with the student’s parents,” Stewart said.
Stewart concludes his statement by saying we live in challenging times with complicated issues for everyone including students, parents, teachers and administrators but making “broad-brush accusations” detracts from the district’s mission.
“In Hilliard City Schools we work to prepare our students so that they are Ready for Tomorrow and we do this in partnership with students and their families. We will continue to do this for every child we serve, without exception,” he said.