Indiana state legislators voiced opposition to a proposed bill that would limit the teaching of race-related topics in Indiana schools. The comments were made during a virtual event hosted by College Democrats of Indiana.
Indiana House Bill 1134, which will be brought to the Indiana House floor for amendments Tuesday, aims to limit the teaching of topics such as race, religion, sex, and political affiliation.
This will mark the second reading of the proposed bill. On the third reading of the bill, H.B. 1134 must receive at least 51 votes by Jan. 31 to move to the Indiana Senate.
If the bill reaches the Senate, it will have until Mar. 14 to either block or pass the bill.
Zoe Bardon, IU sophomore and College Democrats for Indiana Deputy Director of Activism, organized the virtual event so college students could hear from Indiana lawmakers about why the bill is harmful, as well as to help people understand what stage the bill is at in the legislative process.
“I go to IU Bloomington, and there has been a lot of confusion about whether this bill is alive or dead, which that in itself is concerning,” Bardon said. “We need everyone to be aware of the bill and be aware this impacts college students as well.”
A similar bill was dropped from consideration in the Indiana Senate earlier this month. Indiana Senate Bill 167 would have required schools to post curricular materials to the school’s website and allowed parents to opt out of certain aspects of the curriculum.
Indiana Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, said she is glad the bill was dropped from the Senate, but some of the same language and ideas are still appearing in other bills such as HB 1134. She urged people not to be complacent after halting one bill.
“It was great to defeat 167 but we still have work to do on 1134,” Yoder said. “Thank you for educating, for advocating, for showing up, for calling your senators. I am hopeful with your help we can do the same to 1134.”
State Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, said it is important for college students to pay attention to this bill because the bill could prohibit public college students from interning with political organizations for school credit.
DeLaney also took issue with the creation of Local Curriculum Advisory Committees, which would create committees to advise the school boards on appropriate curriculum. The committees must consist of 60% parents of enrolled students and 40% teachers, administrators or community members who would serve four-year terms.
The Indiana House Education Committee amended the bill to allow teachers to teach about historical injustices and individual rights, freedoms and political suffrage. However, Veronica Embry, Public Education Advocacy Coordinator at the Indiana State Teachers Association, said the bill still requires instructors to treat historical injustices or individual freedoms as neutral topics.
“You can teach historical injustices, or the ‘isms’ like racism, but again you can’t take a stance for or against them,” Embry said.
Embry, a former high school teacher, also said she worries about teachers’ licenses being revoked because parents did not approve of the curriculum.
“This is very troubling that we’re going to take a teacher’s license because someone is offended,” Embry said.
Indiana Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis said the bill uses language that makes initial readers believe it advocates for equality when really the bill is an attempt to avoid difficult conversations about America’s painful history.
“There are times in our history that we cannot be neutral,” Qaddoura said. “These bills are not really about transparency. They are not really about empowering parents. These bills are about a political party that is uncomfortable about the truth of our history, and they want to silence and neutralize an entire generation about the atrocities of the past.”
The virtual event concluded with the students and legislators encouraging attendees to email their representatives, share social media posts against HB 1134 and encourage three friends to contact their representatives.
“We look forward to continuing to fight against any kind of censorship in our education,” Qaddoura said.