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‘Don’t Say Gay:’ Bill Similar to Florida’s Introduced in Ohio

Yesenia Harris



COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A version of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill has made its way to the Ohio Statehouse.

Two Republican state lawmakers introduced House Bill 616 on Tuesday to prohibit schools from teaching about “divisive or inherently racist concepts” – including sexual orientation and gender identity for students between kindergarten and third grade, according to the bill’s text.

The wording is similar to Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last week. Opponents referred to it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and businesses such as The Walt Disney Company have said they will work to repeal it.

The wording is also similar to an earlier “divisive concepts” bill in Ohio that was criticized by educator groups and others. That bill is currently stalled in the House State and Local Government committee.

What exactly is in Florida’s new ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law?

For older students between the fourth and twelfth grade, HB 616 would require any instruction about LGBTQ-related topics to be taught in an age-appropriate way, the bill reads.

In addition to barring curriculum related to sexual orientation and gender identity, the bill prohibits the following:

Critical race theoryIntersectional theoryThe 1619 Project Diversity, equity and inclusion learning outcomesInherited racial guilt

Teachers who discuss any of the “divisive concepts” in the bill are subject to an investigation conducted by the school’s superintendent and are prohibited from receiving credits required to renew their teaching license, according to the bill.

Depending on the severity of a violation, HB 616 would authorize the Ohio Department of Education from withholding funds from the district, the bill reads.

Introduced by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) and Rep. Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta), HB 616 marks the third time a bill prohibiting the instruction of “divisive concepts” in Ohio schools has been introduced in the Statehouse. Schmidt and Loychik were not immediately available for comment on the bill.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Schmidt said HB 616 would keep political activism out of schools.

“The classroom is a place that seeks answers for our children without political activism,” Schmidt said in the statement. “Parents deserve and should be provided a say in what is taught to their children in schools. The intent of this bill is to provide them with the tools to be able to see what their child is being taught.”

Republican Ohio Speaker of the House Robert Cupp said his caucus has not discussed the bill yet.

“I just noticed that it was introduced,” Cupp said. “I haven’t had a chance to read it, so we’ll be looking at it to see what it is.”

Democratic Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo shared her thoughts on the bill.

“This, to me, speaks to the extremism that continues to run rampant in this statehouse, and we cannot continue to grow as a state economically, do right by Ohio families, if we don’t embrace our diversity and make sure that this state is inclusive for all Ohioans,” she said.

Russo even had parting words for the bill’s sponsors.

Gov. DeSantis signs controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law

“If you don’t feel comfortable speaking publically about your bill and answering questions about it, then maybe it shouldn’t be introduced,” she said.

Advocates for teachers and the LGBTQ+ community both condemned HB 616.

“I’m not sure exactly what curriculum they’re referencing there. I’m not sure what problem they’re trying to solve,” said Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association. “If you have students who happen to have gay parents and you have a conversation that is part of the curriculum about family, about neighborhood, about community, that you often have at primary levels, what does a teacher do if a child talks about her two dads or her two moms?”

“I am the parent of a five-year-old, and I will not be erased from my daughter’s classroom. I will not be erased from my daughter’s mind or memory,” said Densil Porteous, executive director of Stonewall Columbus. “I think it’s a definite travesty to consider that in this day and age, in this moment in our time, and in this period in our history, that our legislators here in the state — Republican at that — would think that it would be appropriate to create such a discriminatory bill.”

DiMauro expressed concerns for Ohio’s educational and economic future if HB 616 were to become law, comparing the measure to legislation signed last month in Florida that limits LGBTQ+ discussion in schools.

“You see how much divisiveness is happening there. You’ve got a governor who’s at war with one of the largest employers in the state of Florida right now,” DiMauro said, referring to tension between Disney World and Gov. Ron DeSantis. “It makes me wonder, where is Intel on this? Where are other large employers in the state of Ohio?”

The full bill, as introduced, is below.

HB616 is awaiting assignment to a House committee for a hearing. All bills introduced in the Ohio House must have at least one committee hearing.

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Pulaski County Fair Comes to North Little Rock Riverfront Park

Yesenia Harris



NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – If you are looking for a fun time going into the weekend, the Pulaski County Fair is back in the Little Rock metro this week.

North Little Rock is hosting its 2nd annual fair at the Riverfront Park in North Little Rock. The fair hours Wednesday through Friday will be 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it will open at noon and close at 11 p.m.

Little Rock mayor announces Topgolf coming to metro

Fair-goers will be able to enjoy Hip Hop Night Thursday and participate in a pie contest the following Sunday. Other activities include rides, games and talent contests.

Adult admission is $5 and children 12 and under will have free admission.

For more information on ticket purchase and activities, visit

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Court Recesses in Josh Duggar Child Pornography Sentencing

Yesenia Harris



FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — On May 25, Judge Timothy L. Brooks called a recess in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court shortly after 11:30 a.m.

Nearly the entire morning session of Joshua Duggar’s sentencing hearing was spent addressing a list of objections the defense made to a pre-sentencing report submitted to the court. The prosecution had one objection, which was addressed before today’s hearing.

The defense had 21 objections, and the morning proceed with the judge addressing many of them. Several objections about sentencing enhancements were overruled, others were sustained, and a handful of them were tabled until later in the day.

‘No merit,’ says federal judge in denying Duggar’s motion for a new trial

Some of the judge’s rulings on certain objections also rendered others moot, seeing some of the 22 items withdrawn. The judge also vacated one of Duggar’s convictions as a lesser charge, which he had previously noted he would do when Duggar was found guilty in December, 2021.

The judge sided with the defense on the matter of whether Duggar “did knowingly engage in distribution” of illegal child sexual assault materials. At issue was the peer-to-peer file sharing software Duggar used, which is how his activity was first discovered by an undercover Little Rock police officer.

Ultimately, the judge found the passive nature of the software, which cannot turn file sharing ability on or off, to be enough to sustain the defense’s objection.

Another matter that has been disputed by both sides in sentencing memorandums pertains to the total number of images Duggar downloaded. The defense has maintained that the number is “127 at most,” while the prosecution has stated that there were over 600.

Today, the judge clarified the importance of this difference, noting that the defense’s total would result in a two-level sentencing enhancement, while the prosecution’s higher number would increase that to a five level enhancement.

‘Josh didn’t choose this life’: Duggar’s wife, mother, and others write letters to judge pleading for leniency in sentencing

A good deal of time was spent trying to calculate an exact total, with the judge ultimately deciding that it was impossible, partially due to the presence of some files being located in unallocated space on Duggar’s computer. Judge Brooks added that each video counted as 75 images in this total.

“The Court gets to 525 images very easily,” he stated, before settling on an unconfirmed total of 590. He acknowledged that there may be more than 600, but for sentencing purposes he limited the enhancement to four levels.

Two defense objections pertained to what the court called Duggar’s “Ashley Madison scandal,” and the judge ruled that his confessions about infidelity before the trial and his own words about having a pornography addiction were “relevant in several respects.”

Judge Brooks will rule on the remaining objections and subsequently begin addressing the final sentencing guidelines this afternoon, beginning at 12:10 p.m.

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Norwich Man Charged With Home Invasion, Assault With “hatchet-style” Weapon

Yesenia Harris



Norwich police on Wednesday, with the aid of the U.S. Marshal’s Service, arrested the suspect in a Feb. 8 home invasion.

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