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Indiana House debates how schools can and can’t teach about racism

The Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WIBC) – Legislation to block the teaching of critical race theory in Indiana is up for debate again, this time in the House.

The bill doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but it would ban schools from teaching that one race, sex or religion is responsible for what’s happened in the past, or that students should feel “discomfort or guilt” over it.

State Rep. Tony J. Cook, a Republican from Cicero and a former school superintendent and history teacher, emphasizes schools could still teach about “historical injustices.” But he says he’s heard from parents in at least two dozen counties objecting to teachers pushing “divisive” views of race. Parents testified about what they charge are ideologically-loaded classroom assignments, like dividing classrooms into “oppressors” and “oppressed.” Some say students have been bullied by other students after classroom lectures about racism.

Opponents of the bill maintain it’s flawed educationally and logistically. They argue a requirement that all classroom materials be posted online will give teachers a mountain of extra paperwork. And they argue the order to avoid making any student feel uncomfortable is too broad.

Laura Falk, West Lafayette Community Schools diversity specialist, argues the bill would minimize the pain minorities have experienced while leaving teachers gun-shy about approaching issues of race at all.

Some parents who support the bill say it doesn’t go far enough, with some calling for limits or even outright bans of discussions of topics from Black Lives Matter to the transgendered. Several say they prefer a bill authored by state Rep. J.D. Prescott, a Republican from Union City. His bill would require schools to teach that socialism, Marxism, and totalitarianism are anti-American. That bill also limits schools’ ability to impose COVID-19 precautions, banning schools from requiring masks, vaccinations, or quarantines of students without symptoms.

Prescott is a co-sponsor of Cook’s bill.

The House Education Committee heard five hours of testimony on the bill, mostly from parents. It plans to hear further testimony from education lobbyists on Wednesday before a possible vote. A Senate committee heard eight hours of testimony last week.