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UC students present their ideas for education reform to Ohio lawmakers

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Zack Carreon
A group of students at Cincinnati presents their argument for why legislators should say no to House Bill 616

Topics surrounding education including what teachers should be allowed to teach and how Ohio's schools should be funded were all on the table at the University of Cincinnati's Education Reform Symposium.

The Wednesday night discussion included input from two State Representatives. Republican Adam Bird and Democrat Catherine Ingram were there to hear ideas from students and discuss possible ways Ohio lawmakers can reach solutions on matters related to education.

All the students who participated in the discussion were a part of a course called "Save Our Schools! Education Controversy and Reform." Students spent the semester learning about bills related to education in the Ohio Statehouse and also met with local teachers to hear about their experiences inside the classroom.

Fifth-year student Emily Denny presented her argument for why schools in the state need to change how they teach sexual education.

Denny says her research shows schools teaching abstinence-only education leads to high transmission rates of sexual diseases and can increase the likelihood of teenage pregnancies. She argues schools should have an "abstinence-plus" approach to talking to students about sex.

"[It's] a model that still covers abstinence and emphasizes that abstinence is the only 100% way to prevent pregnancy and STDs, but it takes into account that students still have sex. 57% will still have sex before they graduate," Denny said.

Denny's fellow classmates also expressed the need to provide sexual education for students who identify as LGBTQ+.

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Zack Carreon
Democrat Catherine Ingram and Republican Adam Bird hear presentations from UC students.

Representative Adam Bird listened to the arguments but suggested the students consider the impact of making sweeping changes inside the classroom and remember that these decisions are often made by each local community.

"The local board of education, they're in charge, they decide, they're elected. They're elected by parents," Bird said. "It's important to understand as you enter this field that teachers are not in charge of what is taught in the classroom."

First-year student Emily Moore says she felt the back-and-forth between the students and representatives was productive and could eventually lead to change down the road.

"I think that's just the start. Even if they don't fully agree, that maybe they have a discussion with one of their peers and we can get people remembering, 'Oh, right, that happened. Maybe we should revisit that in a second,'" Moore said.

Student's used data collected during the semester to help build their arguments. The course taught by Professor Sarah Stitzlein is relatively new and can be taken by students studying education or any other major.

Zack Carreon earned his bachelor's degree in media production from Bowling Green State University. Before joining Cincinnati Public Radio, he was a content editor and photojournalist at WTOL 11 News in Toledo. Zack enjoys long hikes, collecting vinyl records, and watching his hometown team the Cleveland Browns.