Indiana House passes bill requiring schools post curriculum online

The Indiana State Teachers Association and Democratic legislators opposed the bill, with a handful of Republicans voting “no.”

Updated: January 28, 2022 - 11:45pm

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill this week requiring teachers post all curricular materials on a web site for parents to see, and it would prohibit schools from teaching that any group of people is inherently racist or sexist, or superior or inferior to any other group.

The Indiana State Teachers Association and Democratic legislators opposed the bill, but it passed 60-37, with a handful of Republicans voting “no” along with Democrats.

Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, the author of the bill and a former Hamilton County teacher, principal and superintendent, said his goal was to try to find a “middle ground” where parents can have more involvement.

“They have a right to be an active voice in their schools,” he said. “They feel they are not heard. Many, in many schools...feel like they are not heard, they’re put off by access to information and materials. We’ve heard hundreds and hundreds of those stories.”

The bill does not prohibit the Social Emotional Learning curriculum that has come under fire from many parents’ groups in the state but does address other issues that have been raised at school board meetings.

House Bill 1134 would remove the defense to criminal prosecution that schools and public libraries now have related to “sexually explicit” material and disseminating material that is judged to be harmful to minors.

In terms of curriculum, it would require that schools post a bibliography by Aug. 1 each year on an online portal that would list all books to be read during the year. It would also require teachers to post materials they are using in lessons and would give parents an opportunity to opt out of some lessons.

It also addresses the issue of surveys administered to students by third parties, saying third parties are prohibited from maintaining that information in a way that would identify individual students.

It would also require schools to establish a “consent procedure” to get the OK from parents before administering mental, social-emotional or psychological services to a student. It also says schools must get a parent’s consent before having a student participate in a “personal analysis, an evaluation, or a survey” that reveals or attempts to change a student’s attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs or feelings.

The bill says teachers and schools cannot promote the idea “that any sex, 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” or teach that anyone is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, and says it is the duty of schools and school corporations to remain impartial.

It also requires schools form committees that include parents who can recommend curriculum.

Several Democrats voiced opposition to the bill on the House floor.

“It sends out a call to all teachers, or a command to all teachers, that they must stick just to the facts,” said Rep. Vernon Smith, a professor at education at IU-Northwest in Gary, saying he has always taught teachers to have children take facts and "blend them" into concepts and generalizations.

Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, and a school principal, opposed the bill.

“I support this bill 99%, but I struggle with the 1%,” McNamara said, adding she thinks the great majority of teachers are not bad actors, and the bill seems only aimed at the bad actors and bad school corporations who refuse to do anything about them.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, will be the main sponsor.