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TEACHERS’ REPRIEVE: Anti-critical race theory bill shot down by Indiana legislature

TEACHERS’ REPRIEVE: Anti-critical race theory bill shot down by Indiana legislature

TEACHERS' REPRIEVE: Anti-critical race theory bill shot down by Indiana legislature

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On February 27th, in a huge win for Indiana educators and others opposed to legislation that waters down the teaching of history, Indiana House Bill 1134— an anti-critical race theory bill — was defeated.

The bill was widely criticized for being “racist” and “toxic,” allowing parents to opt-out of any teaching that made their student feel “mental anguish” and called for vetting of teaching materials

This came as a shock and disappointment to those who thought the bill’s passing would be a slam dunk with a GOP-controlled state legislature and with the success in other states like Florida, where the Sunshine State recently passed its controversial “Don’t Say Woke” bill, and Virginia, where Governor Glenn Youngkin rode the anti-CRT train to victory.

But even with a supermajority of 71 Republicans in the state House, only 60 voted in favor, a slim victory that only saw the bill die in the Senate with General Assembly Senate President Pro Temper Roderick Bray (R) saying he “didn’t have the votes.”

Authored by Republican Representative Anthony Cook, HB 1134 — dubbed the Education Matters Bill — was meant to give parents more control over what’s being taught in their child’s classroom and make a teacher’s curriculum more transparent.

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Or so they say.

At a virtual event held by College Democrats of Indiana, Senator Fady Qaddoura criticized the bill as a thinly veiled attempt to pass suppressive legislation disguised as being equitable, protective, and fair. Calling out proponents of the legislation, Qaddoura said:

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“There are times in our history that we cannon be neutral. 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.”

I reached out to Katlyn Milligan, Press Contact for Rep. Cook, via email for a statement on the bill’s failure, and asked if he planned to reintroduce the legislation. She responded:

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“Thank you so much for reaching out. I will pass along your request. You are likely aware, but the 2022 legislative session concluded on March 8, which means the bill nor the language in the bill can be revived. Also, Rep. Cook is retiring and will not be present for the 2023 session, which begins in January. Please let me know if you need any more info.”

Well, that’s that…for the time being anyway.

With a bill so controversial from the start, Indiana Dems, the Indiana State Teachers Association, and the civil rights leaders pushed back, saying that the bill would cause even more stress on teachers — stretched too thin already — while diminishing the voices of minority students and students of color.

Marshawn Wolley, Director of Public Policy for African American Coalition and Policy Advisor for Urban League, said in opposition to the bill:

“I want my child to understand how racism has impacted Black people who have come before him. HB 1134 is unethical to really everything that I’m trying to do with him as far as trying to understand cultural differences. Not only his history, but history that is different from him.”

The debate was heated, with both sides weighing in. Some felt the legislation was an overreach, and others thought it didn’t reach far enough. There were 44 amendments between both legislatures: 19 in the House, 25 in the Senate, with one amendment taking out the requirement to teach an enhanced study of the holocaust in high school history courses, allowing parents to sue educators for teaching ‘objectionable’ material, and paving the way for a teacher to lose their license.

A contested amendment, introduced by the Democratic minority, would allow teachers to be reimbursed for money spent to defend themselves against lawsuits. It was stricken.

One amendment went so far as to ban any talk or distribution of abortion information or material, and another required students to take a naturalization examination provided by US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The ITSA celebrated the bill’s demise with a series of posts on their Facebook page which you can find here and here.

Another controversy surrounding the bill was the resignation of House Speaker Todd Hurston, a supporter of HB 1134, from his position as Senior Vice President for State and District Partnerships. The College Board designs SAT and AP courses and influences the school curriculum. It was determined to be a conflict of interest.

Whether this is a sign of things to come, only time will tell. The debate around diversity, inclusion, and what is considered ‘history’ in the nation’s schools is still a hot topic. One that is not likely to lose steam anytime soon.

Prior to HB 1134’s failure, a similar bill also failed to pass. Senate Bill 167. Requiring teachers to have a middle-of-the-road position when teaching about the holocaust, slavery, and other moments in history that may make some ‘uncomfortable.’

Poised to pass, it was the statements of its author, Representative Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), that sealed its demise. When history teacher Matt Bockenfeld gave a speech to the Senate Education Committee on his commitment to teaching history, and all its flaws, the way it should be, Rep. Baldwin doubled down on his assertion that teachers should be neutral when discussing history’s atrocities.

Baldwin:

I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those isms…We need to be impartial.

By “isms”, he means fascism and Nazism.

But if the failure of HB 1134 to pass in Indiana tells us anything, it is that teachers are tired. They are tired of being pawns in a political game of rhetoric aimed at inhibiting their ability to teach.

A sentiment echoed by ITSA President Keith Gambill:

Hoosier parents and educators all want our students to succeed and we’ll continue to be partners in standing up for what’s right for their future.

I second this, Keith.

Click here to read the full bill.

Original source: Indy Star

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

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Ty Ross
News journalist for Occupy Democrats.

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