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Re: The Dangerous Consequences of House Bill 454

November 16, 2022


Testimony by Campaign for Our Shared Future

November 16, 2022

Chair Manchester, Vice-Chair Cutrona, Ranking Member Denson, and members of the House Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on behalf of the Campaign for Our Shared Future (COSF). COSF is committed to stopping dangerous policies that threaten children’s freedom to learn, which is why we strongly urge you to oppose H.B. 454. We believe this dangerous proposal would not only restrict transgender young people’s access to compassionate and fact-based health care but also further deprive them of educational access.

Transgender kids deserve an opportunity to succeed like every other student, yet schools are not often safe learning environments for them. A Trevor Project survey from 2021 found that 52% of transgender middle or high schools reported being bullied either in person or electronically in the previous year. An earlier survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality focusing on young Ohioans found that 80% of those who were out or perceived as transgender experienced some form of mistreatment, with 57% experiencing verbal harassment, 27% experiencing physical attacks, and 15% experiencing sexual assaults at some point between kindergarten and twelfth grade. The same survey found that 20% of these young people who faced severe mistreatment were forced to leave school. Think about the impact of a child forced to leave school due to mistreatment because of who they are. That is devastating for a student individually, as well as for their future as an Ohioan. If they recover from this mistreatment, will they stay in Ohio? Or will they leave the state and take their talents elsewhere?

In addition, H.B. 454 does nothing to address the real problems that make Ohio schools unsafe for a share of children. Instead, this proposal—which requires the outing of young people’s identities to parents on top of taking away their access to gender-affirming care—stands to exacerbate discrimination and bullying. In fact, a study by researchers at Cornell University found that the mere consideration of discriminatory policies creates an unwelcoming climate for LGBTQ+ people by normalizing differential treatment and furthering poor mental health, internalized stigma, and expectations for adverse treatment.

And that’s not all. H.B. 454 requires that schools violate a student’s privacy rights by outing their gender identity, which could put them at higher risk of rejection, violence from parents, depression, suicide, and homelessness. In fact, seven in 10 trans and nonbinary youth do not feel safe being themselves at home and around family members, according to a study by the Human Rights Campaign. And 85% of transgender adolescents reported seriously considering suicide in a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Given how high the stakes are, why should the state play a role in determining when a young person comes out to their family?

Another consequence of requiring trusted nurses, counselors, teachers, principals, and school staff to report on a student’s gender identity, is that transgender students will be less inclined to report harassment and mental health needs to these educators and staff. Making matters worse, the bill’s provision on staff reporting is exceedingly vague and does not expressly require that educators, counselors, and nurses report only on a student’s own, first-hand accounts of their gender identity. Faced with confusion around reporting, school staff may rely on overbroad stereotypes about transgender youth and determine who to report by scrutinizing a young person’s clothing, body, or behavior. This would put any student who does not conform to society’s expectations of gender in harm’s way. In other words, H.B. 454 would hurt all children and require that they hide who they are in school.

All Ohio students deserve the protections afforded to them by federal law. Nearly 50 years ago, Congress enacted Title IX to prohibit all forms of sex discrimination in education programs and activities. The Biden-Harris administration made clear that it intends to enforce Title IX's prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and discrimination based on gender identity consistent with the Supreme Court’s holding in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. The U.S. Department of Education has also clarified that the Title IX rule is essential to protecting LGBTQ+ students’ equal access to educational programs and activities.

However, COSF believes Ohio schools should go far beyond complying with federal law and implement LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that have been shown to benefit all students.  LGBTQ+ students with supportive educators in their lives report higher levels of self-esteem, lower levels of depression, and a lower likelihood of having seriously considered suicide in the past year. Parents know—and research affirms—that a sense of safety and belonging is required for any child to learn. H.B. 454 would discourage and prevent schools from implementing research-backed best practices.

Like all students, students who are transgender deserve educational opportunities that are free from discrimination and prepare them for their futures. We urge you to vote no on H.B. 454.

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