Josh Brown, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, explained that the parents are not seeking monetary damages but would like to see the district put an end to the inappropriate conversations about sex and gender.
"The district distinguishes as we do between counselors and teachers, counselors are supervised, they're trained to handle this. Teachers are being instructed by the teachers' union, specifically to hide this information from parents and how to do it," Brown said.
The parents' lawsuit argued that the sexual conversations with students have "led to a very dangerous outcome."
"The parents were contacted one day and told that the student was suicidal at school. And when they got to the school and talk to the social worker, they were told that the school was counseling and treating the child for gender dysphoria, and never informed the parent," Brown stated.
According to the lawsuit, several school officials were "treating the daughter as a boy while their daughter was at school" without the parents' knowledge or consent.
The complaint also seeks to put a stop to a survey given to students, which asked for the children's preferred pronouns while at school and their preferred pronouns when speaking to parents.
The parents' lawsuit sounded the alarm about a QR code on badges worn by some teachers, which linked to material providing "instruction on sexual positions" and book suggestions that are not approved by the district's standards. The "I'm here" badges, provided by the teachers' union, were worn to designate certain teachers as a "safe person" for LGBT+ students.
The district's response
In a Wednesday statement, Hilliard City School District Superintendent David Stewart said the parents' lawsuit is riddled with "broad-brush accusations," "misstatements of fact and mischaracterizations."
However, Stewart confirmed several of the parents' claims.
Stewart acknowledged that some students were provided a survey asking for their preferred pronouns at school versus when speaking to parents. He noted that the district did not support the practice.
"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 said.
Stewart also confirmed that some teachers were wearing "I'm here" badges that included a QR code leading to "objectionable material inappropriate for students." However, Stewart argued that the QR code was on the back of the badge and, therefore, less visible to students. He added that he was unaware of any students accessing the badge's link.
"Any teacher who chose to wear one of the badges clearly understood that the resources at the link were intended for adults, not students," Stewart stated. "The resources are provided for teachers' personal growth and professional development."
Stewart and the union president decided that teachers could still wear the badges, but they must cover up the QR code.
The superintendent agreed with parents that only school counselors, not teachers, should be talking to students about medical or mental health. But, according to Stewart, in "the single example cited in the lawsuit," the student's parents were informed by a "professional social worker" that the child was "exhibiting the need for mental health counseling."
"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," Stewart added.
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