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Teachers, Black leaders oppose 'racist' school bill

The teachers union argues HB 1134 will put more stress on teachers, worrying it would exacerbate the state’s teacher shortage.

INDIANAPOLIS — A controversial school bill was called "dangerous" and "racist" during a press conference by the state’s largest teachers union Wednesday. Speakers argue the bill is bad for teachers, students, and the state.

"This is a heinous bill," said Dr. Ivan Hicks with the Indianapolis NAACP. "It is a racist bill. It’s a bill that seeks to divide and does not bring us together as a community."

The Indiana State Teachers Association gathered a group of nine speakers to castigate House Bill 1134.

Supporters argue the bill is about making sure parents have more of a say in schools. It would give them more avenues to review more teaching materials. It also allows parents to opt their children out of certain lessons and social emotional learning activities.

The teachers union argues the bill also puts more stress on teachers, worrying it would exacerbate the state’s teacher shortage.

The union also accused lawmakers of censoring teachers. House Bill 1134 would prevent lessons that cause "discomfort, guilt, anguish or ... psychological distress " due to "sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation."

RELATED: 'Trust us to do the right thing' | Teachers voice concerns about House Bill 1134

"As educators, we want to prepare students for the future," said ISTA President Keith Gambill. "We need to teach them both the good and bad of our history. So, we can avoid making the same mistakes."

One of the speakers, Marshawn Wolley, spoke as a father as well as a member of the African American Coalition, the Indianapolis Urban League, and Indiana Black Expo.

"I'm a parent of a Black child, a son and I was extremely disturbed about the conversation that's been happening," he said.

The bill has language that states, "Nothing in this chapter may be construed so as to exclude the teaching of historical injustices committed by or against any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation." However, the way the rest of the bill is written makes Wolley worry teachers will have to leave out context.

"I don’t know how you talk about slavery, Jim Crow or Reconstruction without talking about racism," he said. "You have to do that and this bill eliminates that possibility."

RELATED: 1 school bill dead, but others live on

The bill is similar, but not identical, to Senate Bill 167. That bill died after the bill author said the goal was to make teachers neutral, even when teaching about Naziism.

"(Senate Bill) 167 died. This bill needs to die, as well," said Rev. David Green with the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis.

The House is scheduled to have a second reading of the bill on Thursday. If it passes the House on a third reading, senators have expressed a willingness to review it.

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