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Legislators debate bill affecting parental say in school curriculum

The House Education Committee heard nearly four hours of testimony about a school bill aimed at providing more parental say and limiting what’s taught in class.

INDIANAPOLIS — Monday, the House Education Committee heard nearly four hours of testimony about a school bill aimed at providing more parental say and limiting what's taught in class.

House Bill 1134 is one of several bills written in response to debates over Critical Race Theory and the inclusion of diversity, equity and inclusion programs and social emotional learning.

Part of the bill states educators can't "present any form of racial or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation."

Opponents worry it could stop teachers from discussing or teaching about racism. Some teachers worried they could be punished if they're honest about issues like slavery or the Holocaust. The bill sponsor disagreed.

"That's a historical fact," Rep. Anthony Cook, R-District 32, said. "Facts can be taught."

The bill would also allow parents to opt out of social emotional learning activities, including surveys about their home life. The Indiana State Teachers Association warned that could prevent schools from identifying kids in need of help due to abuse at home or if they're experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Teachers also spoke out, arguing it may worsen the teacher shortage. The bill would require the online posting of all "educational activities and curricular materials." Current teachers said that will lead to hours of additional work. They said the same will happen if the bill makes it easier for parents to opt out of certain activities, like reading some books.

The Education Committee will hear additional testimony about the bill on Wednesday. Lawmakers are also looking at Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 1040, which also cover curriculum transparency.