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Republican state senator proposes series of changes to controversial school bill

State Sen. Linda Rogers said her amendments will address many of the concerns raised by educators.

INDIANAPOLIS — NOTE: The above video is from a previous report on HB 1134.

A Republican lawmaker is proposing a series of changes to a controversial education bill.

State Sen. Linda Rogers (R-Granger) will present her amendment to HB 1134 in the Education and Career Development Committee on Wednesday.

Rogers said her amendments will address many of the concerns raised by educators. She said they will also maintain the bill's focus on curriculum transparency, parental involvement in education and limiting promotion of concepts that divide students based on their backgrounds.

"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. "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 said in a news release.

Here is a list of the provisions of her amendment:

  • It removes the requirement for educators to post a list of learning materials and instead provides transparency by ensuring parents have access to their school's learning management system and allowing parents to review any other learning materials used in their child's classroom upon request.
  • It does not require school districts to have curriculum advisory committees, but creates a pathway for parents to request a school board to adopt one.
  • It removes the current proscriptive complaint process in HB 1134 and requires school districts to adopt their own procedures for handling complaints about curriculum.
  • It removes language about lawsuits for violations of the bill, and instead allows parents to appeal to the Indiana Department of Education to take administrative action for a violation if they remain unsatisfied after following the school's grievance process.
  • It removes the sections about "material harmful to minors" and "sexually explicit materials," since much of the same language is included in Senate Bill 17.
  • It removes language requiring schools to be impartial in teaching about historical events.
  • It streamlines the list of "divisive concepts" that schools may not teach to three specific concepts that stereotype people based on sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color and national origin. With the amendment, schools could not teach that:
    • One group is inherently superior or inferior to another;
    • One group should be treated adversely or preferentially; and
    • Individuals, by virtue of their traits, are inherently responsible for the past actions of others who share their traits.
  • It explicitly states nothing in the chapter shall be construed to exclude the teaching or discussion of factual history or historical injustices committed against any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color or national origin.
  • It shortens the window of time that schools must wait for parental response before beginning ongoing, nonemergency mental health services for a student. Under the amendment, parents would have seven days to opt their child out of the services if the parents are contacted electronically. In all instances, parents would receive two separate notices giving them the chance to opt their child out of services if the parents disagree with the school's decision, and the parents would continue to have the ability to end services after they have started.
  • It adds language stipulating parental notice requirements do not apply to daily interactions between school staff and students.
  • It specifies parental notice isn't needed to provide services in a crisis situation when a student is in immediate danger of harming themselves or others, or when a student is immediate danger of abuse or neglect.

You can read the full amendment here:

Currently, HB 1134 would require more oversight of learning materials. Parents would also be allowed to opt out of certain lessons and social-emotional learning activities.

Part of the bill would prevent teaching, "that any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation."

The bill allows for the teaching of facts and history. However, teachers worry the way it's worded — plus a section that allows parents to sue for violations — will have a chilling effect on history lessons.

"Hoosier teachers are concerned about having their professional reputations damaged in their communities," said teacher Christianne Beebe. "Even if they are eventually cleared by the school board of any wrongdoing … some parents don't actually want schools to teach their children facts if those facts make them uncomfortable. We live in a culture where people dismiss facts they simply don't like as propaganda or attempts of indoctrination or fake news."

Lawmakers say HB 1134 is a response to concerned parents. The bill is similar to SB 167, which died after controversial comments about Naziism led to national attention.

HB 1134 passed through the House, but still needs to be voted out of committee in the Senate before the full Senate body can vote on it. If amended, the bill would go back to the House to be considered. 

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