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Hilliard schools superintendent says parents' suit alleging abuse misrepresents the facts

National Education Association LGBTQ badge.jpg
National Education Association

The superintendent of Hilliard City Schools is pushing back after eight parents filed a suit against the district in federal court accusing teachers of violating their rights by being inclusive of LGBTQ topics.

The lawsuit filed was filed by Rachel Kattenbach, Daniel Kamento, Sarah Kamento, Bethany Bussell, Jennifer King, Tanya Ciomek, Leizl Zirkle and Lisa Chaffee. It claims teachers spoke to students about "about sexual behaviors" and "sexual attitudes" and that parents should have been able to give or withhold permission.

The parents claim the district's policy on handling a student's gender dysphoria is inappropriate, and want the court to bar teachers from talking about it with students and remove mention of it from district communications.

The complaint states the district should have to inform parents of students' gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a feeling experienced in people who feel like their identity doesn't match their biological bodies.

Superintendent David Stewart said in an email that the district will "vigorously" defend against the suit and that it mischaracterizes policies and events that occurred in the district. "The lawsuit makes certain accusations which have little to do with the legal arguments, but about which we believe it is important to set the record straight – with facts," Stewart wrote.

Stewart said a survey asking students for their preferred pronouns was not standard practice. "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."

WOSU has reached out to the school district to clarify whether or not that means teachers in the district are not allowed to ask students what their preferred pronouns are and have not yet heard back.

Stewart also stated a part of the suit that claims teachers are taking on counseling roles when they shouldn't isn't true, and that counselors and social workers are called in to handle those situations.

The full lawsuit and statement from Superintendent David Stewart are available below:

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.