Proposed change to ‘divisive concepts’ bill would ban fewer ideas

A proposed amendment to Indiana’s so-called “divisive concepts” legislation would drop some of the most controversial parts of the bill, but stop short of completely removing a list of concepts that would be banned from the classroom.

The changes are an attempt to strike a compromise, according to a statement by Sen. Linda Rogers (R-Granger), who’s sponsoring House Bill 1134 as it makes its first appearance Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development.

Among its changes, Rogers’ amendment would narrow a list of concepts that lawmakers want banned from the classroom from eight to three, removing one that would forbid teachers from teaching that students should feel guilt or discomfort based on their personal characteristics like race or national origin.

Teachers had singled out this point in particular as potentially generating frivolous lawsuits and stifling classroom conversations.

The bill, passed out of the House last month, has faced an uncertain future in the Senate, which killed its own version of the bill early into the session after national outcry.

“The changes I am introducing may not be where we end up on all of these issues, but I am offering them as a good-faith attempt at a compromise that respects the valid concerns of both parents and educators,” Rogers said in a statement. “I appreciate the thoughtful discussions I’ve had with hundreds of interested parties on this bill, and I will remain open to input as the legislative process continues.”

Rogers’ amendment still includes three concepts that teachers couldn’t promote:

  1. That any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior to another.
  2. That any individual should be treated adversely or preferentially because of the above.
  3. That any individual is responsible for actions committed in the past by people who share their personal traits.

Notably, the amendment would strike “political affiliation” from the list of characteristics that the bill protects from discrimination. Opponents had pointed out that such language could stop teachers from condemning Nazism.

Rogers’ amendment would strike the ability of parents who believe schools have taught a banned concept to file suit. Final authority to determine whether a violation has occurred would rest with the Indiana Department of Education.

The amendment would strike the original bill’s mandate for outside curriculum review.

Instead of mandating curriculum review committees composed primarily of parents, the amendment would give districts the option to form such committees. Parents could request that a committee review certain materials.

Finally, the amendment would not require schools and teachers to post most of their learning materials online for public review at the beginning of the year. Instead it would mandate that they use an online learning management system and allow parents to inspect materials upon request.

The Senate is scheduled to hear testimony, consider amendments, and vote on HB 1134 at Wednesday’s committee meeting, at the end of a packed schedule that also includes a hearing on House Bill 1041, which would ban transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports.

Proponents of the curriculum-control bill have said parents need a window into their children’s education. But opponents, including many teachers, say it discounts their professional experience and inserts politics into teaching.

In a statement, Indiana Democrats said the amendment “still falls far short of the mark for teachers, parents, and students.”

“The latest version of HB 1134 remains a slippery slope allowing bad actors to demand neutrality on issues, divide communities, and diminish Hoosier values,” said Lauren Ganapini, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party.  “The Indiana GOP’s original intentions were to put politics in the classroom, not to create a better future for our children.”

​​Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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10 thoughts on “Proposed change to ‘divisive concepts’ bill would ban fewer ideas

  1. Just look at the headline… this new-and-improved legislation would “ban fewer ideas.” Think about this for a moment. Our non-expert legislators are seriously trying to enact laws that “ban ideas.” It doesn’t matter that they are trying to appear more reasonable by banning *fewer* ideas — the fact that they are trying to ban ideas at all is an absolute outrage. This is America, not North Korea or the Soviet Union or an Orwell novel. How dare these politicians try to “ban ideas” to score political points with their rabid, misinformed base. It’s shameful, and shows the world some characteristics about Indiana that are disgraceful and embarrassing. Time to stop this nonsense now!

    1. A reminder that if you don’t like your kid’s school and what they teach, you can move them to literally any other school with your voucher, free of cost. Heck, you can move them to another school district if you’re unhappy that there’s too much diversity in the student body (read: too many brown people) and it’s allowed. And there’s plenty of private Christian schools that will take your voucher, paid for with our tax dollars, and teach your kids that the earth is 6000 years old and that girls are just less capable than boys if that’s what you want.

      So I really struggle to understand the need for this bill. Heck, I don’t understand why our legislators just don’t hand down the lesson plans from on high that they want taught.

  2. I agree…Banning IDEAS in education??? Education is all about ideas and freedom of ideas…Wait a Minute ! That sounds more like a violation of Freedom of Speech…isn’t that a Constitutional guaranty of our rights?

  3. There is zero need for this or any version of HB 1134. It’s nothing more than the current Boogeyman/Strawman GOP issue to scare the easily manipulated straight white people in the suburbs and rural areas (a/k/a the Trump voter). The rest of us, certainly including nearly all Indiana public educators, wish the super-majority GOP would stop with the silly tactics and go back to substantive topics they actually know something about. (Truly, I don’t know what that would be, either. But I wish they’d go there anyway.)

  4. Quote: …scare the easily manipulated straight white people in the suburbs and rural areas (a/k/a the Trump voter).

    How insulting. Don’t you have anything better to do than dwell on such nonsense, Michael?

    1. Bob, what’s nonsensical or insulting about Michael’s quote? He’s exactly right. This legislation is designed precisely to soothe and placate the fragile suburbanites whom you see supporting it.

      And who is “dwelling” on this issue? Michael, with a single-paragraph article comment, or the bill’s authors, who’ve written a 40-page bill designed to ensure that students don’t feel discomfort?

  5. Modern republican playbook. IMHO. The proposed ‘legislation’ isn’t about the issues, the people, or any form of actual service to the state. It’s about control – and FREE advertising. The republican party controls the state and they want to keep it that way. This is how they keep a grip on the state. They do it by making sure that everyone knows they are the party that protects ‘good ole ‘merican values’. You see, no one at all is looking out for the next generation. Those poor children are being lead to these godless, fear mongering, white guilt preaching, so-called teachers, like lambs to slaughter. BUT FEAR NOT! The republicans are taking a stand, and they will save your babies from the onslaught. It makes no difference whatsoever whether any form of this bill passes. The entire point is to get a divisive issue out in front of their constituents, which the press does freely, and keep the faithful in the flock by making them take sides. If any version of the bill passes, that’s icing on the cake. If no version of the bill passes, then it’s just ‘evidence’ that the onslaught is real, and more icing on the cake. We need our legislators to be better than this. We need our legislators to be solving actual problems. (No personal slam intended IBJ, y’all do a great job, but are forced into promoting a political agenda with ‘legislation’ like this. Carry-on.)

  6. Why would schools, or ANYONE, feel the need to ban the teaching of ACTUAL history of the USA? Shame? Guilt? Embarrassment? None of those are a reason, and certainly not a “good” one…

  7. Good! DEI ideology should stay out of the schools.

    Teach our kids history and facts…. not modern day social/culture theories that are discrimination-based belief systems veiled in compassion and caring!!!

  8. History shows us that limiting ones rights as opposed to expanding ones rights rarely expands democracy. Just look at prohibition to see how limiting rather than governing turns out.

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