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House Republicans near consensus on banned concepts and classroom censorship bill

Newest HB 327 unequivocally requires teachers to "fairly present both sides" of issues
March 4, 2022
Democratic Newsroom

COLUMBUS— Today, Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Ranking Member Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) spoke out against the latest version of House Bill (HB) 327, the most recent attempt by Republicans to silence and censor Ohioans.

The few remaining House Republican holdouts appear to be warming to the idea of big government censorship in the classroom. On February 16, House Republicans on the State and Local Government Committee voted for yet another substitute version of HB 327–the fourth form the bill has taken publicly, which has now gone through at least 12 redrafts behind closed doors. For the second hearing in a row, Republicans did not allow testimony on the bill, which could be voted out of the House as soon as March 9. 

“HB 327 is part of an alarming trend by Republicans to censor and silence Ohioans,” said Leader Russo. “The truth is that HB 327 isn’t about education, it’s about controlling what our kids can think and what our educators can teach. This dangerous language also goes far beyond the classroom to additionally impact local governments and law enforcement agencies. Instead of focusing on the real, everyday issues Ohioans face, Republicans want to pass more controversial, inflammatory bills meant to divide us.”

Each version of HB 327 has included a long list of ideas to censor. Originally, this list was taken nearly word-for-word from a 2020 Trump Executive Order, and the ideas being censored were called “divisive concepts.” The most recent version of the bill no longer includes the word “divisive,” but the list of eight banned concepts remains. 

“Ohio is already struggling to create and retain an educated workforce to power the economy of tomorrow,” said Rep. Kelly. “How do we convince the best and brightest students and professionals to make a life in Ohio when some in the legislature seem intent on ignoring the reality of the beautiful, diverse world around us?” 

The most recent version of the bill includes several alarming new provisions to go with the concerns previous versions raised. These ambiguous measures raise many questions, including: 

·         When the bill says we can’t discuss inherent racism, “whether consciously or unconsciously,” does that bar law enforcement agencies from conducting implicit bias trainings?

·         When it says failing to “present both sides of a political or ideological belief” is conduct unbecoming of a teacher, does that mean we can’t teach history anymore? How do you teach both sides of slavery? Of the Holocaust? Of 9/11?

·         When it says our history “dispels the idea that the United States… is systemically racist,” how do we make progress in curtailing racism and its real and ongoing effects? 

While the bill sponsors insist the legislation is not backlash from the racial justice protests spurred by the death of George Floyd in 2020, HB 327 now includes a statement of intent that suggests otherwise. Beginning on line 1065, the proclamation reads: 

(B) The General Assembly finds all of the following:

(1) Slavery, racial discrimination under the law, and racism in general are so inconsistent with the founding principles of the United States that Americans fought a civil war to eliminate the first, waged long-standing political campaigns to eradicate the second, and rendered the third unacceptable in the court of public opinion, all of which dispels the idea that the United States and its institutions are systemically racist and confutes the notion that slavery, racial discrimination under the law, and racism should be at the center of public elementary, secondary, and postsecondary educational institutions;

(2) Democratic societies built on the ideals of individual freedom and the self-driven pursuit of prosperity with a dedication to equal opportunity for all will thrive in perpetuity, while societies built on the false promises of equity and equal outcomes for all have consistently ended in failed states.

**EDITOR’S NOTE: HB 327 language and additional analysis attached.