Bill seeks to limit some ‘discriminatory concepts’ from being taught in school

Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday began debate on a Republican-backed bill that would require all school curricula to be posted online for parental review and ban schools’ ability to implement concepts like critical race theory.

The proposal, which Republican author Sen. Scott Baldwin maintained is intended to prevent certain “discriminatory concepts” from being taught in classrooms, prompted a full day of back-and-forth testimony before the Senate Education Committee from school advocates, teachers and parents.

The first draft of the Senate bill prohibits K-12 schools from requiring a student or employee to “engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of racial or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.” Teachers would also not be allowed to “include or promote” such concepts as part of their curriculum.

The bill does not explicitly reference critical race theory, which has become a catch-all term for the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

Instead, it instructs that schools can’t teach “that any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, responsibility, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of what Baldwin called “the eight specific divisive concepts” outlined in the bill text.

Baldwin said a core aspect of the bill requires transparency for parents by requiring that all curriculum be published online and by creating curriculum committees with parents on them to approve classroom materials. He questioned whether posting curriculum online was too burdensome for teachers, however, and said he was open to amending that language.

Bob Taylor, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, echoed testimony from numerous educators Wednesday that requiring syllabi or course outlines to be published, rather than entire lesson plans, would be less punitive and cumbersome for individual teachers.

According to the legislation, parental consent would also be needed for ongoing mental, social and emotional services to students, except in cases of crisis or emergency.

If schools violate the law, the bill empowers parents to bring a lawsuit against the school corporation.

Baldwin maintained Wednesday that the bill was drafted in a different format before the 2021 legislative session and emphasized that he heard “many complaints” from constituents about “divisive” concepts being taught in Indiana schools.

He further insisted that nothing in the bill is intended to prevent the teaching of “historical facts.”

“Teaching factual topics, past of present, good or bad, is not a subject of this bill,” he said. “We’re creating new language in Indiana code to make it crystal clear these are discriminatory concepts that don’t believe in Indiana schools.”

Gail Zeheralis, the Indiana State Teachers Association’s director of government relations, said the bill will have a negative effect on teachers, though, making them will feel “constrained” by what they’ll be allowed to teach and adding to already “frustrating” workloads.

“The bill is coming at a time of tremendous stress in our schools, coming at a time when teachers and staff have moved heaven and earth to put an educational program together to meet kids where they are, both in-person and remotely,” Zeheralis said. “It will hurt kids’ abilities to learn and grow, both in terms of their understanding of the world, and in their own critical thinking skills development.”

Two similar bills filed in the House would additionally require schools to post learning materials and educational activities publicly online.

One bill requires students to be taught that concepts like “socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems” are “incompatible with the concepts of freedom upon which the United States was founded” in grades six through 12.

The legislation also allows parents to opt their students out of face mask or vaccine requirements and mandates that schools cannot require vaccination against COVID-19 or another communicable disease “as a condition for employment, enrollment, attendance, or participation in a school corporation or qualified school or in a school extracurricular activity.”

Another bill, which similarly requires schools to post curricular materials online and stipulates what can and cannot be taught in classrooms, will be heard by the House Education Committee on Monday.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

23 thoughts on “Bill seeks to limit some ‘discriminatory concepts’ from being taught in school

  1. “ The legislation also allows parents to opt their students out of face mask or vaccine requirements and mandates that schools cannot require vaccination against COVID-19 or another communicable disease “as a condition for employment, enrollment, attendance, or participation in a school corporation or qualified school or in a school extracurricular activity.” ”

    So schools can no longer require vaccinations for polio or measles.

    But I was told that people just had concerns with the COVID vaccine, and all the others were OK…

    The virus that has infected the Republican Party is dangerous to the future of America.

  2. “One bill requires students to be taught that concepts like socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems are incompatible with the concepts of freedom upon which the United States was founded in grades six through 12.”

    America is already a partially socialist country. Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, and social security are all socialist programs. Students shouldn’t be taught that these are incompatible with freedom in the United States. Students should be taught about these systems, like they are now, and come to their own conclusions.

    It’s also interesting that the GOP is leaving fascism out of the bill. Guess that form of government hits a little too close to home for them after Trump. I wonder when the Indiana GOP is going to pass a bill allowing the Statehouse to overturn election results like they did in Georgia?

    1. Given that fascism is, by its own historic definition (trotted out by such powerhouses as Mussolini and Hitler), the allegiance of the state with corporations to help stifle political dissent and upstart competition, you might want to be a bit more careful about the finger-pointing you do with that beloved “fash-isst” epithet. After all, isn’t that essentially where we are with the unholy allegiance between big tech, big pharma, and the federal government, not exclusively (but certainly disproportionately) the political party currently occupying the Oval Office?

    2. Lauren B. Here is the definition from Merrim Webster, and Wesley H is right. It hits really close to home:

      1 a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

    3. Big tech? They don’t stifle conservative dissent. Look at Todd Rokita, he can’t get himself banned from Twitter despite his best efforts.

      A simple guide to politics today – when the GOP accuses the Democrats of doing something, it’s an attempt to normalizer something they’ve already done or are actively doing. Rigged elections? No evidence of those exists in 2016 or 2020, both elections that Trump claimed were rigged, but we do have tape of Trump telling someone to “find votes” and numerous states are passing laws that will allow them to throw out votes for no good reason. Censoring by Big Tech? Plenty of evidence of political operatives at Facebook letting conservative voices get away with more violations of their Terms of Service because it makes them more money.

      We know the America that the GOP wants. It’s Viktor Orban’s Hungary, a fauxmocracy.

    4. Dan M. was this an attempt at a refutation? You essentially proved my point. Fascism is identarian communism by some other wedge instead of class (often racial), and progressives (mostly white) perceive themselves as exalted. They’re a little more subtle than the Not-sees or the Dixiecrats that they so strongly resemble, but the ambitions are the exact same: it is the white man’s burden to lift society to their vaunted nation-state– a nation that is fully embedded with their own beliefs and are willing to suppress anyone and everyone who disagrees “by any means necessary”, using the help of corporatism, the fourth estate, the undermining of once stalwart neutral institutions. Their entire life mission is political victory–it is a religion for them, and minorities are useful as long as they operate in lock-step with their orthodoxy. And if they dare step out of line, you can rest assured the progressives are the first to dole out the racial epithets. If minorities don’t self-identify as victims with the white progressives as their appointed saviors, they’re no better than trumptards.

      Deeply collective, centralized government, dogged pursuit of a one-party state, the need to create an “enemy caste” and to inflict economic pain and to anathematize them…hmm, it hits awfully close to home doesn’t it?

  3. Great, now they need expand this to the workplace where DEI “experts” (with mostly made up degrees) spew their garbage ideology veiled in compassion to pit the “privilege” class against the “victim” class

    Identity politics leads to tribalism which is BAD NEWS!

    We need to promote hard work and responsibility and tell our young people they are CAPABLE OF ANYTHING if they put their mind to it, and not tell our young people they are too unfortunate in their circumstances to amount to anything on their own!

  4. Is this a not so veiled attempt to thwart a discussion of CRT? Fine.The targets of harassment live the aspects of CRT daily and could likely pen a theme themselves. How then are schools dealing with harassment and bullying of students. All students can be affected. Minority students face the usual taunts and insults. However, it’s a great, fantastic introduction to real life — many wonderful people and many mean-spirited, be they at secondary schools, colleges and universities, the workplace, or the retirement home.

  5. IBJ— can you share a link to a previous headline where you put a Democrat championed subject in quotes? “Critical Race Theory” or “Diversity”. Something like that?

    1. Critical Race Theory is indeed embarrassing–given that it is essentially “Mein Kampf” redressed for the modern era, but a carefully packaged safeguard so that white progressives can go through the rituals of self-flagellation to reaffirm a) whose team they’re on and b) that they’re at the top of the pecking order, a sort of “white man’s burden” with non-whites as the domestic variant of the “noble savage”.

      If our school boards were, across half the country, attempting to push Intelligent Design with the full support of media watchdogs, Big Tech, and the feds, that would be something akin to where we are now with the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion cult. But that never happened. The few attempts to ramrod Intelligent Design anti-science got called out and shamed. The 1619 Project and CRT’s anti-history (basically akin to the Confederate Lost Cause Theory) is fully embraced by the cult, who use their institutional control to stifle dissent.

      The best thing is, it’s the Dixiecrats’ new attempt at resegregation, and African Americans are wising up to it, since it still presumes their inferiority, and, when taken to its full ideological extent, encourages separate facilities by race and a curriculum that dumbs things down in the interest of “equity” (essentially affirming white progressives’ low opinion of racial minorities).

    2. Just a reminder that Indiana Republicans control what gets taught in Indiana schools and have done so for the last decade. So if CRT is actually being taught in Indiana schools, that’s on Republicans.

      But I can see where actually teaching children about things like the Tulsa Race Riots might make some children feel bad. Of course, when I learned history in an Indiana private school in the 1990’s, it was always glossed over as to how we got the point where there was a civil rights movement in the 1960’s. Lincoln freed the slaves, a little bit about Reconstruction, Plessy v. Ferguson, poll taxes, and viola, here comes Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. The concept that white people would rise up and kill hundreds of black people and destroy their things and face no consequences? No, only black people riot in places like Watts.

      All that said, remind me why getting so angry about COVID vaccines requires that all vaccinations be made optional. Maybe the Indiana legislatures should also mandate the teaching of the history of infectious disease and the polio epidemic so people are reminded why those shots are required. Maybe show and tell with an iron lung.

    3. I learned about the Tulsa Riots long ago (not sure where, probably not public school), but only knew the details recently. I’ll concede that. It is valuable to learn more. And it would be valuable to learn more about the trail of tears. Or, stretching beyond American boundaries, to learn more about the Holodomor, the great genocide of Ukrainians by the Soviets that took place barely a decade before the Holocaust and is an obscure footnote.

      But if we’re going to devote new attention to the Tulsa Riots, we might as well also talk about the last Indiana lynchings in Muncie…among the last lynchings in the north period. But, in the interest of balance, we could also talk about the fact that (until Boss Hogsett came along), Indianapolis was the largest city in the country with a sizable African American population to NOT have a major race riot, thanks in no small part to Bobby Kennedy’s effective and brilliant off-the-cuff speech while he was coincidentally in town during MLK’s assassination.

      But then, if we were to be truly honest, rather than include a narrative that exclusively involves white victimization of blacks, we would also have to include, in addition to Tulsa:

      – the Ft Mims massacre, in which Red Stick Creek Indians slaughtered approximately 400 white or mixed-race (white/Indian) settlers in 1813
      – the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the slaughter of non-Mormons by Mormons in 1857
      – the Lattimer Massacre where native-born Americans (under authority from the sheriff) shot Polish and other Eastern European striking miners
      – the Lemont Massacre of Chicago, where black strikebreakers surrounded and killed strikers, again with Polish victims
      – the enslavement of blacks by creoles and even other blacks in cities like New Orleans and Natchez, MS
      – among the earliest Virginia slaves, John Casor, was determined an “indentured servant for life” under his master Anthony Johnson, who was a former indentured servant and was black himself. And Anthony Johnson had white men as indentured servants

      I’m not trying to push back (though I know I’ll be treated as offering bothsides-ism…typical). Merely opening the fact that history is vast and varied and infinitely complicated, but selective history–the emphasis of certain events and the neglect of others–can easily help achieve a very one-sided narrative. Exactly what the CRT proponents are looking for. And while there’s no time to dive into every atrocity in American history (far too many, just as there are in EVERY country), the depiction of at least some from across the spectrum can help again allow students to form a historic understanding of breadth that shows the best and worse of humankind…rather than one that crudely distills some groups as strong/evil and others as persecuted/virtuous.

      But one-sided history is what the CRT proponents want, and they choose a valueless postmodern morass to extract their narrative. Again, one that is as ahistoric as Intelligent Design is ascientific. Nope. Better to let public ed die if we can’t extract the ideological cancer.

    4. I do not see CRT as asking for history to be one-sided, I believe it’s a retort to a history that is already one-sided. I see it as asking for history to be more inclusive of cases like the ones you mention. And I think people are threatened by that, similar to how they feel threatened by a society in which there are more black people, more brown people, and LGBTQ people who don’t hide who they are any longer. The quote “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” seems to encapsulate that.

      Akin to Black Lives Matter … they’re not asking for black lives to matter more, they’re simply asking for them to matter as much.

      I can tell you that from my perspective now, the 12 years of education I got in a private Indiana school was very one-sided and glossed over a lot of things.

      I’m sure you can find radicals on both cases who feel differently, but that’s how I feel.

  6. You can dress it up, put whatever name on it you want, insist it isn’t about banning telling the truth, but face it: we all know this is for racists who don’t want their white children to learn about or feel badly about the terrible things we’ve done to Blacks throughout our history, and some of which continues to this day.

    Ok, so it’s not slavery anymore, but emancipation was followed by about 100 years of terribly discriminatory Jim Crow laws and thousands of lynchings. Then came the so-called civil rights legislation that was ignored by a great many whites, voter suppression (which is again an issue), red-lining for home ownership, job discrimination, and the list goes on and on.

    But, God forbid our white kids learn about this and feel uncomfortable. Of course, Republicans have no shame about this effort since so many of them are still racists.

    1. Randy S. ~ You nailed it. To those who disagree with you, here’s a question: do you ever wish you had been born black? If not, why not?

    2. Randy, in my 95% white public schools growing up, we had to watch huge portions of Roots, we had to read sizable excerpts from Native Son and Invisible Man, the Letter from the Birmingham Jail, we saw the original footage of I Have a Dream, we read Sounder in its entirety, huge portions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and memorized verses from Gwendolyn Brooks. We learned about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Dred Scott Decision and Plessy then Brown. We learned about Jim Crow and poll taxes.

      The only thing we didn’t learn is the distillation of these things to the present, as though our own melanin should somehow confer degrees of culpability/victimization for the actions of horrible and misguided people from the past, many of whom no doubt still thought they were being righteous.

      We didn’t learn that last part, because it is dishonest and ludicrous.

      I’m sorry you apparently didn’t gain the rich array of African American contributions in the school district where you grew up. Maybe you would have been better off if you had been in a school district run by conservatives, who strive (not always successfully) to see people as individuals, instead of a district run by people who seek to define everything by racial generalizations…an apt descriptor of the Democratic party of 1960, and, as I more recently learned (after having voted Democrat most of the time up until around 2015) the Democratic party of 2020. Some things never change, I guess.

    3. Lauren. Your argument falls apart on the premise that “all that bad stuff is over and ‘we’ didn’t have anything to do with it so we’re absolved”. As an aside, you’re incorrect in your misguided assumption about my educational upbringing. And you’re Pollyannish about the purity of conservatives viewing people as individuals. You’re racists, which, by definition, means you despise all Blacks as a group.

  7. Question: What is discriminatory? Teaching that Christianity is the only true religion in parochial schools? Teaching the full history of American discrimination against blacks, Asians, hispanics (which is not critical race theory)? The legislature needs to be careful of what they ask for; what happens if the majority of parents prefer to teach the latter, which we all know is what the legislature is targeting.

    Additionally, is the suppression of teaching of facts (comfortable or uncomfortable) an unconstitutional block of freedom of speech?

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}