Liberal Lawmakers Pushing Adoption of State Health Standards for Schools Want State School Board Support, Opponent Calls Their Bill ‘Deceptive’


Ohio is the only state in the nation that does not have statewide health standards for teaching health education in public schools. Liberal state lawmakers are pushing for that to change with Senate Bill 121, blaming the lack of government-mandated standards for Ohio’s high opioid addiction rate and poor health outcomes. They did not provide any empirical evidence to prove their claim when State Senators Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) explained their bill to the State School Board last week, hoping to get their advocacy.

One opponent of the bill told The Ohio Star it is “deceptive” because Ohio law already permits the creation of such standards.

The bill would make the following changes to current law:

  • Removes the requirement of the adoption of a concurrent resolution [and public hearings] when adopting or revising state standards or curriculum for health education.
  • Requires the adoption or a concurrent resolution when adopting or revising state standards for venereal disease education.
  • Requires the State Board of Education to develop and adopt health education standards for grades K-12 health education.

Current law from Senate Bill 1 passed in 2001, “Requires the General Assembly to approve any academic standards or model curriculum in health or physical education prior to adoption by the State Board.” Physical education was removed in 2007. The new bill is currently written to keep the Legislative and public oversight for venereal disease education only.

“It is deceptive for the legislation to keep oversight just for venereal disease education when the national standards include many objectives for teaching controversial concepts beyond venereal diseases,” Melanie Elsey, Legislative Director of American Policy Roundtable explained. “This bill eliminates the transparency and oversight and opens the door for the state to adopt national health standards which will only leave locals the opportunity to implement [not decide for themselves] – say goodbye to local control.”

Elsey has been involved in education policy for nearly thirty years. She’s also been a key advocate for local control and legislative oversight of health standards.

“Current law does not prevent the development of state standards for health education. It only requires legislative oversight for these highly sensitive instructional objectives,” said Elsey. “Currently instructional objectives in sexuality, decision making strategies for personal relationships, use of health services, and more are made exclusively at the local level.”

While the Ohio Department of Education’s Legislative Director Marjorie Yano appeared to be supportive of the legislation, she also provided evidence from the Ohio Revised Code that Mrs. Elsey is correct – the law already allows health standards to be created, just with legislative and public approval. Local districts are required to teach health education which includes providing venereal disease information with an emphasis on abstinence. The bill would remove the public meetings and legislative approval requirements.

State School Board Member John Hagan, a former Legislator, shared his view of the bill The Ohio Star. “This is not necessary. We already have the legal ability to draw up state health standards and even better, the local districts have more control over them,” he stated.

“Every district has health instruction. I asked the Legislators what state they were wanting to model our standards after, and they had no idea,” Hagan said. “It’s baffling to me that someone brings forward legislation without having an idea of where they want everything to land after it passes. Clearly there’s an agenda to make things different from the way they are today, but in what way?”

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Beth Lear is a reporter at The Ohio Star.  Follow Beth on Twitter.  Email tips to [email protected].

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