Indiana’s ‘divisive concepts’ education bill dies in Senate

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The Indiana Senate has killed a bill that sought to restrict how teachers teach about race and racism.

Senate sponsor Linda Rogers (R-Granger) declined to call forward the watered-down House Bill 1134 on the Senate floor on Monday—the deadline for bills to receive a second reading there—after lawmakers twice delayed considering it.

The move signals that the bill lacked the votes among Republicans, who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the Indiana legislature, to pass in the Senate.

Speaking after the vote, Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said the bill ultimately didn’t have enough support. Some Republican lawmakers thought the bill created too much of a burden for educators, while others thought it didn’t go far enough, he said.

Legislators may look to incorporate parts of the bill into other legislation, Bray said.

He declined to elaborate on what those pieces might be, but denied that legislators intended to pass the bill piecemeal.

Earlier this session, the Senate had quashed its own version of a bill banning school discussion of “divisive concepts” after national outrage over a lawmaker’s remark that teachers could teach Nazism neutrally.

But HB 1134 passed the House in January despite vocal opposition from Indiana teachers, Black education advocates, and some school districts. It originally created curriculum review committees that could veto learning material at every school district, while banning the teaching of eight concepts that lawmakers described as divisive.

Senate lawmakers quickly defanged the bill when it reached their desks. Their amendments cut the list of banned concepts down to three, removed provisions that would have allowed parents to sue over the banned lessons, and left the formation of curriculum committees up to individual school boards.

Rogers, who amended the bill when it hit the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, said HB 1134 was a “very complex bill.”

“There are so many moving parts to it, and so many people that it affected and so we wanted to make sure that we do something right,” Rogers said. “It probably needed a little more work.”

In a statement, Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill thanked supporters who “made their voices heard that HB 1134 has no place in Indiana.”

“Components of this bill could return during conference committee, so we’ll stay vigilant, but we hope lawmakers will take this opportunity to step back and collaborate with educators, parents, and others to create legislation that everyone can support for the benefit of all of our students,” Gambill said.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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18 thoughts on “Indiana’s ‘divisive concepts’ education bill dies in Senate

  1. Here’s what Bray and his fellow right-wingers don’t get about education. Voters in local school districts elected members of the communities to serve on school boards. As board members, they represent first and foremost the interests of the students (the stakeholders that have the most to gain, or lose, in education). Board members are able to act on the issues with dispassion and an objectiveness that parents are less able to do on many issues. Give that power to each parent, and the local school will be micro-managed to death, and all students will lose. Bray and his allies are trying to invoke a “solution” on a non-existent problem. They should back off, and leave the decades old system of school board control alone.

    1. If what you said were even remotely true, there wouldn’t be massive campaigns trying to eject ideologically corrupt school board members. The board members run on a neutral platform and then betray their constituents by injecting racial marxism or sexual subversion for first graders into the curriculum. It would be just as intellectually dishonest if a school board member tried to ramrod intelligent design or David Barton-style revisionist history (“all the Founding Fathers were born-again Christians”) into public schools. But, there wouldn’t be an enterprise of sympathetic media coverage if that were happening.

      Film the teachers, get the crooked ones fired, and vote the corrupt boards out of office. If this still doesn’t work, pull your kids out and let the public schools destroy themselves. Higher ed is only about a decade away from its much-deserved collapse; now it looks like the same thing will have to happen to lower ed. Oh well.

    2. If only legislators were held to the same standards that you’re asking for teacher and school boards to be held to, Lauren.

      And I don’t think it’s an accident that the more involved that the government has gotten in schooling, the worse the educational outcomes. I figure we are just a few years away from Behning and his ilk mandating textbooks and lesson plans for public schools while allowing private schools to continue with their Bob Jones nonsense textbooks.

      I agree, if parents are so upset or scared of “those people”, let people take their voucher and go to a private school. But a reminder, the people who get expelled at public schools end up at private schools and in my experience … most are still the same bad kids they were in private schools. And if you think private schools don’t have their own issues, boy will you be in for a surprise.

      The idea that you can wall your child off from the outside world that some parents have is just laughable.

  2. Lauren B – while terminating anyone should be done with careful thought and review, the reality is it is almost impossible to get a teacher fired unless they violate some “woke” belief.

    I think it would be interesting if any public figure who wants to speak on the record regarding education also had to disclose (1) if they have/had children who were educated, and (2) where [which school(s) ] they attended or are attending. I am irritated when politicians bloviate about (public) education when either they don’t/didn’t have children, or they are sending/sent their kids to be privately educated.

    1. While this is a good point, it runs the risk of running into the territory of “if I don’t use the libraries or schools, why should I pay for them?” Exactly what the ideologues have long wanted is not to be held accountable. Lockdowns and Zoom schooling tore open a door they had hoped would remain hermetically sealed.

      My kids are grown and recently out of school but I continue to care because I see enough damage coming from those who friends are dealing with an inordinate amount of suicidal thoughts and confusion about subjects that 99% of the population used to not be confused about. There is grooming taking place, which is every bit as crooked as a cop who plants evidence on a recently arrested perpetrator.

      If teachers and school board members are indignant, now at least they get a taste of what police departments have been facing for the last decade. And many police departments have legitimately come under fire; just the same here with school boards.

      I still remain thankful for the overwhelming majority of teachers and superintendents who understand and respect a liberal education–Mill/Locke liberal, not “liberal” as half the country perceives it in 2022.

  3. Lauren, good morning! You’re wrong. As someone who served two terms as a school board member (including as the board’s president), Brent is correct.

    The only “insurrection” that is occurring in our public schools is because of people like you, Lauren, who are offended by the very notion their children attend school with students who are “different” (however, you define it) from your own.

    And, whether a student is transgender, the issue is to wear (or not wear) masks, or anything related to diversity and inclusion occurs as part of an elementary, middle school or high school student’s education, you – along with some very well-organized lynch mobs (posing as concerned citizens) – think it’s OK to attack kids, disrupt school board meetings and interfere with the process of K-12 education in this state.

    We trust a doctor, nurse or medical professional for the knowledge, skill and education they possess to take care of us. Why is it – here in Indiana and across the country — have we suddenly decided that our dedicated teachers, staff and, yes, administrators — are somehow SUDDENLY not qualified to educate our children?

    By the way, they are the same people who all of us agree(?) are underpaid and yet some of you believe they are not doing their job? Please. There’s a reason you can go to the polls – in Indiana – and request a ballot to vote for your school board candidates and that’s because no one is running as a democrat or republican. That is why “politicizing” our school boards would be THE most devastating thing we could do to our schools in Indiana.

    As Brent says, a board member’s job is to first represent the best interests of the students. They are there to represent all of the stakeholders in a school community, but what and how our kids learn and what they learn is the responsibility of our teachers who work with the curriculum that’s devised by the state.

    Just as in any profession, there are teachers (even tenured ones) who are “bad” and, otherwise, not doing their job. The personnel process takes care of that.

    HB 1134 – for so many reasons — is WRONG. We elect school board members to be responsible for overseeing the policies of our local school districts, in collaboration with the superintendent (who is THE one person they can hire and fire). In turn, the board entrusts the superintendent and the administration to run the day-to-day operations and work in partnership with the teachers and classroom staff to educate our children. That part? Nothing has changed and I’m almost 60 years old.

    I’d bet Lauren you’ve not attended a school board meeting before all of this started, then again, given your view of higher education, it’d be my guess you don’t have a clue about any of this.

    1. Thanks David! Despite its length, you put it remarkably succinctly: you’ve embodied everything we need to get rid of in school boards. Really appreciate it!

      So hilarious that you had to put “diversity and inclusion” into the mix–as though that is somehow a problem among conservative districts. Why is it always left-wing institutions and communities that host racial meltdowns? Because they’re the ones that fixate on racial differences. Quite simple really. As obsessed with race as the Dixiecrats that they once again resemble.

      Keep pretending you’re doing this in the “interest of kids”. Ideologues think that the interest of kids is to raise them to become “attuned to injustices in the world” and “proper functioning citizens”–in other words, to make them raging partisans, since “injustice” is in itself a hugely objective stance that has nothing to do with a classically liberal education that was reasonable to expect until probably the 1990s or so. Why wasn’t this necessary as recently as 2005? The fact that you’re so ideologically driven, that even refugees from Mao’s China will say “this has perfect echoes of the Cultural Revolution–they started with kids” and yet all too often our schoolboards are still stone-cold behind their face-shields. Total scumbags. To borrow from our dear rioting friends no doubt spoonfed the content from public schools, ASCAB.

      To that point, I fully support holding corrupt law enforcement officers accountable through video cameras. At this point, they’re widely available and cheap. It is reasonable, since LEOs nationwide have breached the public trust. So have teachers. And are still doing so every day. Thankfully isolated incidents but still common enough that accountability is necessary.

      And yes, higher education is a complete disaster. An utter embarrassment. Obviously higher ed completely failed me because I can see right through the shenanigans. If I “don’t have a clue” it’s only because of the part of my brain that was spared.

      Make sure to call DOJ and report all these parents as terrorists, David! Sensible parents will do anything to protect their kids while they’re dependents, which is why even a formerly top-tier district like Carmel Clay schools is declining. How much longer before you try to make homeschooling illegal?

      The boards, the supes, the teachers…all work for the taxpayers of that community, and if an engaged electorate filled with parents sees an infiltration of historical and scientific revisionism, they have every right to nip it in the bud.

      Your vision of education will ensure more alienated and confused children (of any race or sexuality), and will almost guarantee more school shootings. Perhaps that’s what you want? It’s what you’ll get regardless.

    2. Let’s summarize this.

      Indiana teachers in the last 15 years have become raging ideologues, none of them can be trusted, we should force them to video record everything they do in the classroom.

      Because we have to prevent cultural indoctrination on the level of what took place in China. Yes, China, that place where… they have cameras that record everything everywhere. Probably including, for all we know, classrooms to make sure teachers don’t go rogue.

      Ironic when put that way, isn’t it?

      You’re going to need to post examples for why it’s necessary to turn our schools into surveillance facilities … Indiana schools only. The floor is yours. Make sure to include links to the evidence.

    1. As usual, Bob P., an ad hominem attack instead of addressing the content of the post. 🙂

  4. HuffPost content from Chalkbeat. IBJ— isn’t it odd that no Democrat backed initiatives are ever called “divisive!” Or “controversial” in your headlines?

    1. Because Democrats don’t actively target minority communities for further marginalization like Republicans do. If you don’t want your policies to be called “controversial,” maybe don’t bring garbage legislation to the table. Simple stuff.

    2. Republicans have to stunt for their primary voters, A T. No accident bills like this are being pushed in a election year.

  5. I really do have to laugh at the right-wingers using “woke” as a pejorative. If Fox News Channel says “woke” is bad, then no need to get out the dictionary and look it up for oneself. So here it is for the lazy: the Oxford English Dictionary, that arbiter of the linguistic zeitgeist, added “woke” to its repertoire in 2017 as “Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice” I, for one, do not object to be well-informed or alert to injustices, for if I were not these I would surely be considered “ill-informed and blind to injustices.” Call me “woke” all day long if you wish. It is a badge of honor (and a tribute to the way my Depression-era, conservative Republican parents raised me).