An Ohio man filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Ohio State Board of Education, charging that it instituted racial policies so controversial that they prompted outcry — then prohibited disagreement during the portion of meetings dedicated to hearing citizens’ views.
Daniel Regenold said the state board banned citizens from speaking during the public comment period of its meetings if they disagreed with critical race theory or the schools’ racial equity policies, alleging that the move violated his 1st and 14th Amendment rights. The board president has acknowledged creating and enforcing such a policy, even though it was never put to a vote, the lawsuit said.
Critics have been “barred from having access to the public forum created … for public comments or testimony … based solely upon [their] anticipated statements or testimony,” the lawsuit said.
Off-limit subjects include opposition to Ohio schools promoting the 1619 Project, lesson plans based on the New York Times series that has been heavily criticized by historians and seen its own author walk back a central premise.
They also include criticism of critical race theory, with a board member making the curious justification that it should not be discussed because “people don’t really understand it,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit names board members, including president Laura Kohler, in both their personal and official capacities. It says:
On July 14, 2020, the Ohio State Board of Education embraced and adopted policies advancing Marxist ideologies of critical race theory and the false proposition of systemic racism.
[It] adopted a resolution given the title of Resolution to Condemn Racism and the Advance Equity and Opportunity for Black Students, Indigenous Students and Students of Color [declaring] that it “shall require training for all state employees and contractors working with the Department of Education to identify their own implicit biases” [and] directed “the Ohio Department of Education to reexamine the Academic Content Standards and Model Curriculums to make recommendations to the State Board of Education as necessary to eliminate bias and ensure that racism and the struggle for equality are accurately addressed.”
In further support of advancing the Marxist ideologies of critical race theory and the false proposition of systemic racism, the Ohio Department of Education has posted on its website support for the 1619 Project, a Marxist-inspired effort at revisionist history that falsely seeks to redefine and vilify the United States and its founding principles.
As a result of the [board] embracing and adopting Marxist ideologies that undermine the freedom-loving aspects of American society, a significant outcry and shock arose from freedom-loving individuals throughout the State of Ohio.
In fact, the board’s public comment periods, which are set aside to gauge the opinion of the public, were inundated with parents objecting to the school board actions. But after November 10, 2020, Kohler made an unofficial policy that “would preclude any member of the general public from making comments or providing testimony during the public participation portion of meetings” about the racial topics, the suit said.
On April 14, 2021, Kohler said that she “had a couple of speakers who wanted to address the Board on critical race theory,” but that she would not let them, citing “the policy we have been using for the past 6 months.”
At-large member Marth Manchester said Kohler was “wise to do that,” according to the lawsuit.
Merlyn Johnson, elected to represent Cleveland, added that allowing discussions on the controversial policies would be opening “a can of worms,” saying “I was really glad when [Kohler] said we weren’t going to have those speeches anymore” and “I would just prefer that we not have a conversation about critical race theory, or 1619.”
“I don’t want to sit here again and listen to two months of people — they have their opinions … This is not what I’m here for,” she said.
If citizens expressed their opposition to government policy, it “would no longer be a safe space for me,” the government official said.
Board member Antoinette Miranda of Columbus said “it will not serve any purpose to have a talk about critical race theory,” saying “people don’t really understand it.”
In March 2021, Regenold — who runs EmpowerUOhio.org, a free university — wrote to Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican:
The State of Ohio School Board is consumed by Identity Politics and is promoting Equity and Discrimination at the expense of Equality. I believe the School Board… is outside the norm of Ohioans. When Ohioans find out this propaganda has made it into their kids schools they will not be happy…. I urge you to mix up the School Bard to include more diversity of thought that truly represents Ohioans in a “color blind” manner, and not divide people.
Then he wrote a letter to Kohler that the word “radical” hardly seemed to sufficiently describe “your decision to limit speech. Such a decision is hard to justify — hard to believe.”
Kohler replied, “As president, I made the decision in the late fall of 2020 to limit public comment on two issues, the Board’s Resolution to Condemn Racism … and the 1619 Project, to written testimony only.”
Kohler did not return a request for comment from The Daily Wire.