COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — A Republican group representing some parents is suing Hilliard City Schools in federal court in the latest clash between the district and parents.
Attorney Joshua Brown, counsel for the Ohio Republican Council of Clubs, said in the lawsuit that he is representing parents who believe activist teachers are having intimate conversations about sexuality and mental health with their children and keeping it secret from parents.
"The schools do not have the right to withhold information from parents for any reason. Especially when it involves mental health," said Lisa Chaffee, director of Ohio Parents Rights in Education and one of the eight plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
"When you are denying parents the knowledge their child is having mental distress, you are literally robbing the parents the opportunity to show their children unconditional love," Chaffee continued.
The lawsuit is the latest confrontation over LGBTQ issues in the district. In September, some parents complained over some teachers wearing "I'm Here" badges given to them by the National Education Association and Hilliard Education Association.
The Hilliard union said the voluntary badges were meant as a message of safety and LGBTQ inclusion for students. Critics worried about the QR code on the back of the badges that led to resources they said were inappropriate for children.
Some parents supported the badges.
"It is a great idea for my child to be able to easily walk a hallway and see someone that they know they can instantly go up and talk to without having to read the room," Hilliard parent Jon Osmundson told WSYX in September.
The district has asked teachers who wear the badge to put tape over a QR code that links to a website offering sexually explicit information.
The lawsuit asks the federal courts to stop the display of “I’m Here” badges, stop teachers from talking to students about gender and sexuality without parental consent, and stop the district from hiding sexual-activity-related and mental health information from parents that were told to school personnel by the student.
Conservative parents said that while the discussions with students and the badges may be well-intentioned, the lawsuit calls it a “recipe for indoctrination and child abuse.”
In a statement responding to the lawsuit, Hilliard City Schools superintendent David Stewart said the district is, quote "committed to a transparent and vigorous defense." Addressing the badges, Stewart said he made the Hilliard Education Association's president aware of the possibility that the QR codes could link to inappropriate material, and both parties immediately agreed on the decision to have the codes covered.