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‘A sense of hope’: Teacher, students react over end of controversial school curriculum bill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Many teachers are celebrating the end of a controversial Indiana House bill that would have restricted how they approach social justice issues in the classroom.

House Bill 1134 would have restricted what educators teach in their classrooms on issues such as race, religion, and ethnicity. It would have also given more power over curriculum and classroom activities to parents.

Selina Tillman, a teacher at Believe Circle City High School, says there’s a sense of relief after Indiana lawmakers killed the controversial bill on the Senate floor Monday.

“I was really happy. I felt like a sense of hope had been restored and then I also felt really happy for the students who advocated,” Tillman said.

The bill made an impact on some of the students at the high school, including Elazia Davison and Merary Lopez.

“The ways and the techniques that we’ve developed to help us learn…taking that away from the teachers and the students, really, it just stunts our ability to continue to grow,” Davison said.

“Our motto is literally like, ‘we’re a black and brown community and we’re not apologetic about it.’ That’s what we stand for,” Lopez said.

Many students had gathered at the Statehouse to show lawmakers their opposition to the bill. One of those students was William Bivens, who says he’s excited that the effort of the students paid off.

“Hearing that the bill was terminated, I felt very relieved. We… me and my classmates, we put forth a lot of effort and we took the time out of the school day to go and represent our school and fight for what was right,” Bivens said. “So, to hear that the bill was terminated, and that we successfully had a great impact in the termination of it, that is very relieving.”

Different parts of the bill still have a chance to pass, Tillman says.

“Bills have a funny way of not being passed and then somehow seeping back into the House, so [I] definitely want [the students] to keep their pulse on it, to keep an eye, keep an ear out, be vigilant for changes and different ways, different parts of the bill that might still try to be passed. Just know that the fight is not over and that we’ll always have to be vigilant to make sure that we have our rights and that our voices are heard,” Tillman said.

Some students at Believe Circle City High School say they will continue to raise their voices not only for their school, but also for the future education of their younger siblings.