HILLIARD, Ohio (WSYX) — Hilliard’s superintendent is firing back after a group of parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the district in Federal Court.
The lawsuit alleges activist teachers are having intimate conversations with students about mental health and sexuality, and keeping it secret from parents.
The conservative community members are also asking the court to prohibit Hilliard teachers from wearing badges that show support for LGBTQ+ students.
Superintendent David Stewart said the district wants to set the record straight with facts. Stewart turned down ABC 6’s request for an on-camera interview Wednesday.
Stewart sent a statement saying they are “committed to a transparent and vigorous defense against the lawsuit.”
Stewart sent some bullet points in an email Wednesday in defense of the district after 8 parents filed the lawsuit and spoke out about their concerns.
“ The use of “surveys” with students. The lawsuit raises the issue of questionnaires that our teachers use to get to know their students better at the beginning of the school year. An example used in the lawsuit included questions about what pronouns a student prefers the teacher use when referring to them and what pronouns the student wants used in communications between the school and parents. While this was not a practice of the district’s or even a majority of our teachers, when this issue was brought to my attention, I made clear to our administration that Hilliard City Schools does not support surveying students on this topic or in this context of getting to know new students. 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,” Stewart wrote.
“ The wearing of “I’m Here” badges by teachers. These badges were issued by the Hilliard Education Association (the teachers’ union) for teachers to show support for students in the LGBTQ+ community and support fair treatment of every student. The front of the badges, the part visible to students, simply read – “I’m Here” – with colored stripes symbolizing support of LGBTQ+ rights. And that is all. The backs of the badges included a QR code for teachers that provided a link to websites with support resources. We learned that by clicking out from some of those support resources, it was possible to arrive at objectionable material inappropriate for students. I discussed this with the Hilliard Education Association president and we immediately agreed that the QR codes on the backs of the badges should be covered so that they would not be visible in any way when being worn by teachers. That has been done and we are not aware of any student accessing the QR code or materials,” wrote Stewart.
“ The roles of counselors vs. teachers. The lawsuit calls for counselors, not teachers, to be called in when issues arise concerning a student’s medical or mental health. We agree. 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 wrote.
The superintendent said we live in challenging times with complicated issues.
“We will continue to do this for every child we serve, without exception,” Stewart said.
Lisa Chaffee, one of the eight parents that filed the lawsuit against the district, said the lawsuit may continue to divide the district.
“I am hoping this is going to force the district to bring both sides together. I am willing to sit down across the table from my adversaries if you will. I think we all truly have the best interest of kids at heart,” Chaffee said.