Indiana lawmakers advance bill targeting K-12 curriculum

Indiana Statehouse (IBJ file photo)

Indiana lawmakers are moving forward with a series of contentious Republican-backed bills that they say would increase transparency of K-12 school curricula and restrict students from accessing “harmful materials” at libraries.

One proposal, which was approved by the House on Wednesday, would require classroom materials to be posted online and vetted by parent review committees, and restrict teaching about racism and politics.

It would also limit what teachers can say in class on sensitive subjects, prohibiting them from using materials that “present any form of racial or sex-stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”

The bill heads to the Senate, where it could be taken up as early as next week.

House lawmakers on Tuesday rolled back the bill’s language a second time to address ongoing concerns raised by teachers and education advocates during Statehouse testimony in recent weeks.

While the amended bill stipulates that schools must still post class materials online, educators are only required to post “bibliographic materials,” rather than daily lesson plans. Any “pre-planned” curriculum for the academic year would need to be made available on the school’s website or online learning management system by Aug. 1, annually.

A provision allowing lawsuits if a school doesn’t respond to complaints about teachers was also amended to cap civil damages for violations at $1,000. Allegations would still be subject to a statute of limitation of 30 business days and must show “willful or wanton” violations of the law, according to the amended bill.

A failed amendment by Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis — who said the bill would lead to increased litigation — would have made the state responsible for legal fees, rather than school districts.

“We’re afraid of change. We want to tell our kids everything’s alright the way it is … And we want to tell some parents that if you think the teacher went a step too far, go make a complaint,” DeLaney said Wednesday. “So what do we want our kids to do? We don’t want them to be woke. We want them to be asleep. That’s what this bill proposes—put our kids, and their minds, and their futures to sleep.”

Republican Rep. Tony Cook of Cicero, who authored the bill, argued his goal is to “empower parents” by increasing transparency around classroom curricula, while still allowing for the teaching of historical injustices.

“All measures in this bill are required to ensure that parents have opportunity to be aware, in real time, of what and how material is being taught in their students classrooms,” Cook said.

House Republicans are pushing ahead with the bill, even after the Senate effectively defeated a similar proposal.

The Senate bill, authored by Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin of Noblesville, would have prohibited 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 in class.

Baldwin drew widespread condemnation this month when he said teachers must be “impartial” when discussing Nazism and other political ideologies. He later walked back his comments, saying he meant to say he “unequivocally” condemns Nazism, fascism and Marxism, and that he agrees that teachers “should condemn those dangerous ideologies.”

Some language from Baldwin’s bill was at the heart of another proposal that advanced to the full Senate on Wednesday.

The author of that bill, Republican Sen. Jim Tomes of Wadesville, said his legislation would remove educational purposes as a reason that public schools and libraries could claim legal protection for sharing “harmful material” with minors. That includes books and other materials deemed to be obscene, pornographic or violent.

Legislators additionally pushed forward a bill on Wednesday that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity.

The proposal, which could get approval from the full House on Thursday, would prohibit students who were born male but identify as female from participating in a sport or on an athletic team that is designated for women or girls. But it wouldn’t prevent students who identify as female or transgender men from playing on men’s sports teams.

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6 thoughts on “Indiana lawmakers advance bill targeting K-12 curriculum

  1. The more the Indiana legislature gets involved in education, the worse the educational outcomes. They think their bills on how to teach are a substitute for what they should do, which is restore the funding cuts they made back in 2008/2009.

    We don’t fund K-12 then, double whammy, there’s no space for them at IU or Purdue or Ball State because they’ve shifted to taking more out of state or international students to make ends meet.

    It’s almost as though we want our kids to be trained to work fast food, retail, manufacturing, or in a distribution center and don’t see the point in any of them dreaming to do more than that.

  2. Parts of this bill related to reporting requirements are a disaster waiting to happen. Not only potential litigation and bad outside press but an increasing burden on the school systems that are currently understaffed and overworked not only due to Covid but in general. Think about it, who does this bill burden the most? The teachers and administrators of each school district! As if they don’t enough to do.

    Parents have a right and should be encouraged to lobby their concerns via school board meetings. These meetings should always be open for commentary and feedback for this is the mechanism by which those who represent the parents in a community, namely those elected school board members, are able to hear concerns and then make appropriate decisions. To encourage micromanagement of review of teaching materials by individuals is burdensome. There is a place to discuss issues like these…the local school board meetings, not the state legislature.

    Here’s a quick tip for elected school board members. When your constituents take the time to come to a school board meeting to address you, the governing body, have the same respect for each persons point of view by respectfully looking at them as they speak. Do not look at you phone or your computer or whatever else you might think is important at the time. And do that for each and every person, no matter the point of view. People want to be heard. But just because there might be a vocal minority doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else thinks that way. That is what the school boards need to figure out.

  3. Local community votes put the current boards in place, so why is the state legislation trying to override the local decisions? Ponder that question and it starts to make sense why there are state legislators that don’t want anyone to teach that things like fascism are bad.

  4. Pandering to a well-organized vocal minority with a solution in search of a problem. Wasted resources on a fabricated issue will be compounded with years of struggling to overcome the unintended negative consequences. Google “Moms For Liberty” (and note that any time a group or person uses “liberty” to describe it/themselves, it’s a dead giveaway that their objective is to impose their will on others).

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