Indiana lawmakers hear hours of public testimony on curriculum bill

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers in Indiana heard hours of testimony on Wednesday on a bill that would regulate school curricula.

“This is a bill and a tumultuous and difficult subject,” said State Senator Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville) at the start of Wednesday’s Senate education committee meeting. .

Baldwin is one of the authors of Senate Bill 167, which would ban schools from teaching certain concepts, including “that any gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation is inherently superior or inferior. to another sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation.

It would also prohibit schools from teaching “that any individual must experience discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation ”.

Democratic lawmakers and others have raised several concerns.

“If a teacher just talks about slavery and a student automatically feels like it triggered something that makes him feel uncomfortable and doesn’t like it, what happens? to that teacher at that time? Said State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary).

“This bill is not intended not to shed light on historical injustices,” Baldwin replied. “This bill is about letting our children be neutral and fend for themselves.”

The bill would also allow parents to take their children away from certain lessons, which some parents have testified that they are trying to do right now.

“I don’t want to be told that he is guilty of the sins of other people, and I don’t want him to feel that he should be remorseful,” said Kara Cecil, a mother of children. in the Center Grove school district.

The bill also requires school districts to form curriculum review committees that include parents and community members. Districts should also post classroom materials such as lesson plans on their websites.

Robert Taylor of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents suggested changing the requirement to post a lesson plan into a program, with Taylor and others noting that lesson plans can change during the school day.

“When you go into the details of the lesson plan, then the activities, then the constant updating that would be required under this legislation, I think it becomes a tedious addition of work that we maybe don’t see. the transparency advantage of this bill. seeks, ”said Todd Bess, executive director of the Indiana Principals Association.

The bill would also allow parents and school staff to sue school districts they believe are breaking the law – a provision some organizations would like to see changed or removed.

“Teachers will just avoid engaging their classes in important conversations that are totally appropriate when it comes to race and discrimination,” said Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children Indiana. “And also think of small schools, small rural schools, charter schools that have no budget to defend themselves against any frivolous lawsuits.”

Taylor recommended that legislation limit lawsuits to parents within the school district, preventing people from other communities from suing.

“I would ask the authors and the committee to consider being more definitive in this particular definition of who can provide or who can pursue litigation,” Taylor said.

The Senate education committee heard public testimony Wednesday but has yet to vote on the bill.