Cincinnati’s school board voted to condemn Ohio House Bill 616. Is Mason schools next?

A spokesperson said the board is “concerned” about the bill that “appears to be another example of Columbus searching for a problem that simply does not exist.”
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 6:28 PM EDT
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UPDATE: The Mason School Board did not vote on a resolution regarding HB 616 at Tuesday’s meeting.

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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - Mason High School students are calling on their school board to “stand by their stated principle” of inclusive excellence by issuing a resolution opposing Ohio House Bill 616 at a Tuesday board meeting.

Other districts in Ohio have recently condemned the bill, which limits class discussion on race, diversity, inclusion, gender identity and sexual orientation. Cincinnati Public Schools was the latest to do so during Monday night’s board meeting. The district’s resolution states the bill contradicts Cincinnati schools’ equity and anti-racism policies.

Now students in Mason, a suburb of Cincinnati in Warren County that’s home to one of the largest districts in the state, are hoping their district leaders will do the same. A petition started by students asking the school board to sign a resolution condemning the bill has more than 500 signatures.

“House Bill 616 would limit teachers’ abilities to provide accurate and balanced information about race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. It does not represent the values of the Mason community,” the petition reads. “With the largest high school in Ohio, Mason has influence.”

House Bill 616 is “poorly written,” “perpetuates racism and discrimination” and limits resources to combat racism in the classroom, the Cincinnati school board resolution approved Monday reads. The board is concerned the bill would “exacerbate a mental health crisis that already exists within our schools and community in the wake of the pandemic.”

Columbus City Schools’ board of education, superintendent and union leaders released a joint statement earlier in April condemning the bill as “shameful and divisive.”

What do Mason school board members think?

The Enquirer reached out to each of the five school board members representing Mason City Schools, none of whom would say if they support or oppose the bill.

But the district’s spokesperson, Tracey Carson, said the board is “concerned” about the bill that “appears to be another example of Columbus searching for a problem that simply does not exist.” The district’s full statement can be found at the bottom of this story.

Some board members directed requests for comment to Carson, who said more information may be shared later Tuesday during the board’s regular business meeting.

“Our board members truly appreciate hearing from the public and are always particularly appreciative to hear directly from our students,” Carson told The Enquirer. “Our board members are looking forward to hearing directly from students tonight, and likely some of the members may have some words or thoughts to express during their board commentary portion of the meeting.”

Mason’s school board will meet in an executive session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and then open for a public meeting at 7 p.m. The community can attend the meeting in person at Mason High School, located at 6100 Mason Montgomery Road, or watch the meeting online.

Mason City Schools’ full statement regarding House Bill 616:

The Masn City Schools Board of Education always welcomes hearing students’ stories and perspectives. The MCS Board of Education is also concerned about this bill - and will always oppose any legislation that erodes our district’s local control. This bill appears to be another example of Columbus searching for a problem that simply does not exist - certainly not in Mason. Most importantly, our school board affirms our district’s duty to ensure that every Comet (students and staff) is safe, and knows they belong at school.

This story will be updated.

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