Ohio school board passes resolution opposing state’s gender identity policy

The Toledo Public School District (TPS) in Ohio voted unanimously to pass a resolution on October 10, 2022, that rejects the Ohio State Board of Education’s (SBOE) resolution on gender identity policies in public schools. 

SBOE member Brendan Shea introduced the SBOE’s resolution on September 20, 2022, in opposition to the Biden administration’s (D) guidance aiming to expand Title IX’s discrimination protections to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Titled Resolution To Support Parents, Schools, And Districts In Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, And Burdensome Gender Identity Policies, the SBOE’s resolution includes the following provisions:

  1. Ask Ohio lawmakers to assist districts that resist Title IX changes with stopgap funding
  2. Require schools to notify parents if a student is questioning gender identity
  3. Support lawsuits against the Department of Agriculture that require schools to accept Title IX changes in order to get federal nutritional assistance
  4. Ask the state superintendent to issue a letter to all public schools directing them to view the proposed Title IX changes as unenforceable

When introducing the resolution last month, Shea stated, “It’s my sincere hope that the state Board of Education will pass this resolution to oppose the radical, and I would argue illegal, changes to Title IX.” The Ohio SBOE voted 12-7 on October 13, 2022, to send the measure to the executive committee, which has signaled that it will table the issue, according to local news outlet WHIO.

The TPS board members voted to reject the SBOE proposal. TPS Board Member Chris Varwig said, “We’re about student-centered decision-making. Whether that is curriculum, athletics, art. We’re going to focus on what matters to students and families and provide equitable education for all students.”

Additional reading:

Richmond school board passes transgender protection resolution in response to Virginia Department of Education’s transgender student policy

The Richmond City School Board, which oversees Richmond Public Schools (RPS) in Richmond, Virginia, voted 8-1 on October 2, 2022, to approve a resolution rejecting the Virginia Department of Education’s policy on transgender students. The policy, titled 2022 Model Policies On The Privacy, Dignity, And Respect For All Students And Parents In Virginia’s Public Schools, mandated the following approaches to transgender students in the state’s public schools:

  • Transgender students must use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their assigned sex at birth
  • The legal name and sex of a student cannot be changed unless official legal documentation or a court order is presented
  • Teachers and school officials must refer to a student by the pronouns associated with their sex at birth
  • Teachers are not required to use a student’s preferred name if they believe doing so would violate their constitutionally protected rights

The resolution, RPS Transgender Student Protection Resolution, formally rejects the new policies on transgender students put forth by Republican Gov. GlennYoungkin’s administration and affirms what the board views as its “commitment to providing protections for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

The Virginia Department of Education stated in its description of its guidance that the policy aims to establish “the rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated.”

Additional reading:

Hillsborough Board of Education votes to approve K-12 social studies curriculum revisions

The Hillsborough Board of Education in New Jersey voted on September 19, 2022, to approve a revised K-12 social studies curriculum. Board members announced they would delay voting on the curriculum until October, but decided to vote to pass the curriculum after hearing public comments from educators and parents. The revisions include a variety of changes including civics standards and new diverse resources for instruction.    

Some board members, such as John Oliver, argued that the vote should have been delayed to address concerns regarding certain content in the curriculum guides. Oliver said, “There are a couple of topics that I found on there to be a little bit controversial, a little bit offensive. I don’t have… I haven’t had a chance to really go through it and look at it but my point is to hold this off to give the public a little more chance to review this and give them an opportunity to weigh in as well,” according to Patch. 

During the period for public comments, educators argued that the curriculum outlines in question adhered to state standards and are meant to be used as guides for teachers. Dr. Kim Feltre, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said, “A board will never see individual worksheets because that’s not what… that’s up to the teachers. The teachers take the guide and they turn it into what goes on in the classroom and that’s where they are the professionals,” according to Patch. 

The Hillsborough Board of Education is responsible for establishing curriculum guides for teachers to use to develop instructional materials that adhere to state standards. The K-12 social studies curriculum guides can be found on the Hillsborough Township Public Schools website.  

Additional reading:

Hillsborough County School Board approves sex education curriculum for seventh, eighth, and ninth grade

The Hillsborough County School Board in Florida approved new sex education curriculum for seventh, eighth, and ninth-grade students on September 20, 2022. The curriculum has been the subject of debate as parents and teachers have spoken publicly in favor of and in opposition to the proposed materials. The curriculum aims to provide “consistent and medically accurate information when it comes to reproductive health and disease prevention.”  

Local district school boards are responsible for developing curriculum and instructional materials for educators in the district to follow. Parents who oppose the sex education curriculum can opt their children out of the included lessons.    

Erin Maloney, Hillsborough County School District Director of Media and Public Relations, said, “The curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year was developed in accordance with new legislation, Board policy, and state standards.” Maloney continued, “Our district promotes abstinence as the first expected standard while also teaching them about healthy decision-making skills. Our curriculum fosters communication with parents and guardians to help continue the conversation at home,” according to Bay News 9

Parents and grandparents with the Protect our Children Project and Moms for Liberty have opposed the curriculum. A member of the group, Terry Kemple, said, “When these kids are presented particularly with sexual concepts that they’re not familiar with, they’re not going to ask their buddies because their buddies will laugh at them, what they’re gonna do is go online, then they’re going to find information that their parents certainly would not want them finding. So bringing these concepts in at this stage of a kids development is inappropriate,” according to Bay News 9

Additional reading:

Pilot program for New York City’s Asian American and Pacific Islander history curriculum launches for the 2022-2023 school year

A pilot program of New York City’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history curriculum was launched in select schools in September 2022. The New York City Department of Education announced in May 2022 that it had developed the curriculum, titled the Hidden Voices Project, in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York. The new curriculum will be widely implemented throughout the city in 2024 for all grades. 

The curriculum aims to teach students to “learn about and honor the innumerable people, often ‘hidden’ from the traditional historical record, who have shaped and continue to shape our history and identity.” K-12 curriculum guides for the Hidden Voices Project are available on the NYC Department of Education website to assist teachers with implementing the new area of instruction. 

David Banks, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, said, “We want each child to be heard and seen for who they are, to feel deep in their bones that they are respected and important,” according to Chalkbeat New York.  

State Sen. John Liu (D) has introduced legislation that, if passed, would require all New York public schools to include Asian American history in K-12 curriculum.  

Additional reading:

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D), Mark Robertson (R) running in a district that became less Democratic due to redistricting

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D), Mark Robertson (R), and Ken Cavanaugh (L) are running in the general election for Nevada’s 1st Congressional District on November 8, 2022.

The partisan balance of Nevada’s 1st Congressional District changed as a result of redistricting following the 2020 census. According to data compiled by Daily Kos, Joe Biden (D) would have won this district in the 2020 presidential election with 53% of the vote. Under the old district lines, Biden won the 1st District with 62% of the vote. The district’s Partisan Voter Index, a measurement tool that scores each congressional district based on how strongly it leans toward one political party, changed from D+15 in 2018 to D+3 in 2022.

Titus was elected to the U.S. House in 2013 and also served a term from 2009 to 2011. Titus served in the Nevada State Senate from 1998-2008 and worked as a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Titus outlined her policy stances to Nevada Newsmakers. She said: “I am a progressive, but I don’t believe in defunding the police. I’m for Medicare for all, but you’ve got to do it in a step-by-step process. I am for every environmental issue out there … But I can’t just say overall the ‘Green New Deal’ because that is a push toward nuclear power.”

Robertson served in the U.S. Army and retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. He also taught as an assistant professor and adjunct faculty at UNLV, the National Defense University, and the American College. In his response to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, Robertson said, “He can use his national and international experience to develop solutions to the complex problems we face as a Nation.” He highlighted school choice, 1st Amendment issues, border control, police funding, and balancing the federal budget as top issues.

The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 118th Congress. All 435 districts in the House are up for election. As of September 13, 2022, Democrats hold a 221-212 advantage in the U.S. House with two vacancies. Republicans need to gain a net of six districts to win a majority in the chamber.

Seattle voters to decide on whether to adopt approval voting or ranked-choice voting for city primary elections

In November, Seattle voters will vote on Proposition 1A and 1B to decide whether to adopt an approval voting system or a ranked-choice voting system for municipal primary elections. Currently, Seattle uses a plurality voting system for primary elections for the mayor, city attorney, and city council, in which the candidate receiving the most votes advances to the general election. This system is sometimes referred to as first-past-the-post or winner-take-all and is the most common voting system used in the United States.

The group Seattle Approves collected enough valid signatures for Initiative 134, which would establish an approval voting system for Seattle primary elections. The Seattle City Council could pass the initiative as an ordinance, reject it, send it to voters, or send it to voters along with an alternative proposal.

On July 14, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 to reject Initiative 134 and adopt a ranked-choice voting system instead. Councilmember Andrew Lewis sponsored a resolution to place the ranked-choice voting alternative proposal on the ballot along with Initiative 134’s approval voting proposal. Lewis said, “This discussion has gotten to a point where we run a risk of making a more undemocratic decision by depriving the voters of making that choice [between approval voting and ranked-choice voting]. In essence, there would be a proxy vote where voting ‘No’ on approval voting would be reflecting a ‘Yes’ vote for [ranked-choice voting] anyway.”

Voters will first decide on Question 1, asking whether either of the two proposed voting systems should be adopted. Voters would then decide on Question 2 to choose between Proposition 1A (Initiative 134) for approval voting or Proposition 1B (City Ordinance 126625) for ranked-choice voting. Voters opposed to adopting a new voting system who vote ‘no’ on Question 1 can still vote for their preferred option in Question 2. If the first question is approved by a majority of voters, the option receiving the highest number of votes would be adopted.

Voting for Proposition 1A would implement Initiative 134, which would establish approval voting for Seattle primary elections for mayor, city attorney, and city council. Under the approval voting system, voters would vote for however many candidates they choose. The primary ballot would include instructions stating, “vote for AS MANY as you approve of” for each office. The top two candidates receiving the most votes would advance to the general election.

Logan Bowers, volunteer co-chair of Seattle Approves, said, “If you’ve ever debated between voting for a candidate that you really like and another you like less but has the big money backing to win, you’ve experienced the problem with our existing elections. The money flowing into elections combined with the flaws in our current voting system means our elections aren’t a fair assessment of what voters want. Too often, voters feel compelled to vote strategically based on who they think can win.”

Voting for Proposition 1B would implement the city council’s proposed alternative measure, which would establish ranked-choice voting for Seattle primary elections for mayor, city attorney, and city council. Under the ranked-choice voting system, voters would rank candidates according to their preferences. The candidates with the fewest votes would be eliminated and the voters’ second choice would be counted for the remaining candidates until two candidates remain to advance to the general election. Voters would be able to rank up to five candidates. Ballots would include instructions stating, “Rank candidates in the order of your choice.”

Lisa Ayrault, director of FairVote Washington, said, “We think it would be an unfortunate choice for Seattle to go in that direction (of approval voting), when ranked-choice voting has such a proven track record of success. Where people tend to have strong preferences about their first choices and care a lot about the outcomes … ranked-choice voting is the best.”

New Hampshire sees 19 U.S. House candidates this year, up from 12 in 2020

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in New Hampshire this year was June 10, 2022. Nineteen candidates are running for New Hampshire’s two U.S. House districts, including two Democrats and 17 Republicans. That’s 9.5 candidates per district, more than the six candidates per district in 2020 and fewer than the 12.5 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. New Hampshire was apportioned two districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • The 19 candidates running this year are seven more than the 12 who ran in 2020 and six fewer than the 25 who ran in 2018. Fourteen candidates ran in 2016, and 10 ran in 2014 and 2012.
  • Incumbents Chris Pappas (D-1st) and Annie Kuster (D-2nd) are both running for re-election, meaning there are no open seats this year. The last year there was an open U.S. House seat in New Hampshire was 2018. 
  • Neither incumbent is facing a primary challenger.
  • There are two contested primaries this year, both Republican. That’s fewer than the three contested primaries in 2020 and 2018, and the same number as in 2016, 2014, and 2012.
  • Eleven candidates are running in the 1st district, the most candidates running for a seat this year.
  • Republican and Democratic candidates filed to run in both districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year.

New Hampshire and two other states—Delaware and Rhode Island—are holding their congressional primaries on September 13, 2022. In New Hampshire, the winners of primary contests are determined via plurality vote (i.e., the candidate with the highest number of votes is declared the winner of the primary even if he or she did not win more than 50 percent of the vote).

Washington school board passes new curriculum guidelines on U.S. history and race topics

The Kennewick School Board in Washington state unanimously voted to adopt a new set of curriculum guidelines on August 24, 2022, that aim to restrict teachings on U.S. history and race. 

Kennewick School Board passed a new policy, known as Policy 2340, that would prohibit teachings that the U.S. is fundamentally or systemically racist or that a group of people is inherently racist, oppressed, or victims. The policy also seeks to bar politically leaning content from being included in course curricula, including the “1619 Project” and the “Zinn Education Project.” 

In reference to Policy 2340, Kennewick School Board member Gabe Galbraith said during the school board meeting, “Anytime in politics, there’s give and take. Could this have been stronger? I think so. But we had a great discussion in June and everyone was able to voice their concerns and thoughts, and I think we were able to capture that in this policy.”

Rob Woodford, president of the Kennewick Education Association teacher union, argued critical race theory was never a part of the curriculum and that the policy would not change current teaching methods. “Educators in Kennewick have always done a great job presenting factual information to students in a professional manner, and that will continue to be the case regardless of incendiary — but, ultimately, unsubstantiated — issues, which tend to rise up and then fade away,” he said.

Additional reading:

Texas school district limits discussions of race and gender, pronoun use, and certain books

The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District in Texas on August 22, 2022, approved a policy by a 4-3 vote that would limit classroom discussions of race and gender, pronoun use, and certain library materials. 

The approved policy:

  • Allows educators to use pronouns that align with a student’s biological sex rather than their gender identity
  • Prohibits transgender students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity
  • Bars teachers from including political advocacy in their curriculum and awarding students academic credit for political activism
  • Forbids K-5 students from engaging in classroom discussions regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, and race
  • Permits school board members and parents to oppose library materials 
  • Authorizes the school board to not have to reconsider banned books for at least a decade

In support of the policy, board member Casey Ford said, “These policies are the product of input from several groups — the board’s policy committee, the district’s attorneys, the board’s attorneys, a committee of administrators and principals and, most importantly, community members.”

Mike Sexton, a parent in the school district, disagreed with some of the board members. Sexton said, “You can talk about Santa Claus, but you can’t talk about gay people to fifth graders. This is incredible — you’re acting like people don’t exist. There’s thousands of people in this district that are LGBTQ, that live here, that are taxpayers,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Additional reading: