Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 164, the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019. The purpose of the bill is to protect the rights of students to religious expressions without penalty in the public school classroom. Under this bill, a student cannot be given a punative grade for simply expressing their religious views as part of a class assignment.
The bill sounds sensible enough, given the many documented instances of students receiving poor grades on otherwise well written assignments merely because a teacher disagreed with the student’s religious views of the subject. A key part of the bill says that no school…
“shall prohibit a student from engaging in religious expression in the completion of homework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments. Assignment grades and scores shall be calculated using ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance, including any legitimate pedagogical concerns, and shall not penalize or reward a student based on the religious content of a student’s work.”
Naturally, the wording of the bill has many fretting that a student could state on a biology paper that the earth is only 6000 years old and the teacher would be prohibited from marking the grade down for that. However, that doesn’t seem to be a realistic scenario given that the bill mentions “legitimate pedagogical concerns.” If the assignment is for the student to correctly explain what the theory of evolution says regarding the development of a certain biological structure, then it doesn’t seem realistic to worry that this bill would protect a student who might write that theory of evolution is satanic and doesn’t explain anything.
Such a worry seems overwrought, but that doesn’t seem to stop opponents from naysaying it anyways. The bill’s sponsors say the “…bill is not an expansion but a clarification (of) what students can and cannot do in religious expression.” Regardless, the bill is now on its way to the Ohio Senate. If it passes there, it will be up to the Ohio Governor to sign it or veto it.