HILLIARD, Ohio (WSYX) — Parents in Hilliard are ready for a showdown. Badges worn by some teachers aimed at reaching out to LGBTQ+ students are under fire.
Some parents say the badges could steer their kids to the wrong place—through a QR code—exposing them to sexually explicit material inappropriate for children.
Teachers are permitted to wear the badge that says I’m here. Safe person. Safe space.
Lisa Chaffee, a Hilliard parent who is with Ohio Parents Rights in Education said she checked out the website and the content is nothing kids should access.
“The badge has a QR code that once scanned takes you to a website that has extremely inappropriate information and as a parent that crosses the line,” Chaffee said.
The district said the intent of the badge is a message of safety and inclusion for all students.
“We obviously want it to be a safe space for everybody but we want it to be clear about what the zones are about how conversations are handled and they are not just like this, sort of misfiring in different directions," Parent Omar Tarazi, a Hilliard City Council member and candidate for State Representative said. "Well-intentioned people going overboard in one direction or another, and not having any state standards to follow,”
Nobody from the district would answer our questions on camera. But Superintendent Dave Stewart sent the following statement:
“The badges in question were provided to any teacher who requested one by the National Education Association (NEA) and Hilliard Education Association (HEA). The front of the badge that is visible when worn says “I’m Here.” The intent of the badge is a message of safety and inclusion for all students.
The QR code on the back of the badge is not there to be shared with students; rather, it is provided to adults by the NEA should they be interested in learning more about LGTBQ+ issues and supporting LGBTQ+ students. Any teacher who chose to wear one of the badges clearly understood that the resources at the link were intended for adults, not students. The resources are provided for teachers’ personal growth and professional development. No teacher was ever required to wear one of the badges or access any of the resources linked to the QR code.
Additionally, out of an abundance of caution, teachers have received the following guidance from their association leadership regarding the badges:
The Hilliard City School District remains committed to ensuring that all students feel safe, included, and welcomed in their learning experience. While the badges were not created or provided by the Hilliard City School District, the district embraces the inclusive nature of the message. Questions about the specific resources provided to teachers should be directed to the NEA or HEA.”
Tarazi said he want to clarify the law as it relates to discussions in the classroom. “I think every teacher should be safe to go to discuss any issue a student might have, they should not have to identify themselves as safe,” Tarazi said.
“There’s professionals that are trained and get extensive years on training on how to handle these sorts of things and we are not sort of deputizing everybody with a badge,” Tarazi said. “Their role is education. There is an element of that where you have to have a good relationship with students. But that doesn’t mean you are the personal therapist for every student.”
Chaffee said their message is simple. “Focus on academics. Our kids need to be prepared that when they graduate they are able to compete on the world stage.”
“Focusing on gender identity, sexuality, is taking time away from the academics,” Chaffee said. “And it is putting teachers in a position to have to answer questions they should not. These are questions for at home.”
Some parents support teachers wearing the badges. Families on both sides of the issue are expected to attend a school board meeting next week to talk about the issue.