Educators in Northern Ohio say they’ll ‘just change names’ of social justice content to skirt laws
February 6, 2023
Across Ohio, Accuracy in Media’s investigators uncovered school officials and educators who admit that they’ll do anything to force Critical Race Theory and social justice into schools.
“Even if they pass some of these stupid laws, there’s ways around it,” Keith Ahearn, superintendent of Fairview Park City School District in Cleveland, told AIM investigators.
Ohio House Bill 616 was introduced in 2022. If passed, the measure would have barred the “teaching or providing training that promotes or endorses divisive or inherently racist concepts.”
Headlines smeared the bill, calling it a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the same nickname given to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.
The bill did not advance out of Ohio’s House.
Of course, the threat of this bill didn’t scare Ohio school administrators. They admit to having ways around these pesky laws.
For example, Treva E. Jeffries-Martin, assistant transformational leader of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Toledo Public Schools, told investigators that “a lot of things will probably just change names and stuff like that.”
Not only that, but her department might rebrand itself.
“Even thinking about the name of our department. We might become the Department of Belonging,” Jeffries-Martin said. “It’s all about semantics.”
“Well, we constantly say that, you know, we are teaching to the standards,” Ahearn told investigators. “The standards, particularly in social studies, are pretty broad when you talk about some of those things that you could fit almost anything into it without drawing attention to it.”
Ahearn further agreed that, so long as teachers can point to the “standards,” they can’t be held to account for inserting diversity, equity, and inclusion and social justice.
“I think teachers can teach those things, it depends again on the language and the approach,” said Rick McIntosh, executive director of school choice and enrollment for Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
According to McIntosh, the district has sunk “significant investment” into making “sure that philosophies and visions of equity and inclusion are embedded in everything that we do from district to building to operations.”
“I would say [social justice is] probably embedded in almost every school to some extent,” McIntosh said.
Then-director of pupil services at Westlake City School District Stephanie Morgan told AIM’s investigators that DEI and social justice can be branded as Social Emotional Learning and Positive Behavior Intervention Support, which she says are state-required.
“I feel like the state as a whole has had a more whole-centered, whole-child-focused, than just strictly academics,” she said, referring to Ohio’s adoption of SEL.
Asked if SEL is used to implement social justice teaching, Morgan said it is, “combined with our efforts on Positive Behavior Intervention Support.”
Jeffries-Martin further made a point of noting to investigators that if laws prohibiting content were passed, the school board wouldn’t abide by them.
“We have one of those radical boards that’s like, ‘Nah, we’re not going to do it,’” she said.
Even if HB 616 had been signed into law, these educators have plans to disguise these controversial topics.
A possible solution, however, lies in a bill introduced this month by Ohio Sen. Sandra O’Brien. SB11, the Enact the Parent Educational Freedom Act would remove current barriers to school choice in the state.
If signed, the law would expand eligibility for the existing Educational Choice scholarships. The measure would also increase the income tax credit available to cover homeschooling expenses.
Expanding school choice in Ohio may be the best option for parents looking to provide their children with a balanced education, void of social justice indoctrination. With a bill like SB11, parents will have a greater ability to send their children to suitable private institutions or homeschool them if they so choose.