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Senate panel dials back school curriculum bill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Educators and their allies on Wednesday said changes made to a controversial school curriculum bill are a help but the bill still does more harm than good.

At a Wednesday afternoon hearing, the Senate Education Committee voted to strip out many of the provisions in House Bill 1134, a bill that targets how teachers approach matters of social justice and racism in class. The deleted portions included a requirement that schools set up curriculum adivsory committees and a section setting up a grievance process for parents who believe their child’s teacher violated the law, though it requires school districts to set up one of their own. The amendment also narrows the list of concepts which teachers could not teach their students, such as individuals being responsible for the past actions of people who share their traits.

According to committee chair Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, close to 200 people signed up to speak on the bill and roughly 90% of them indicated they planned to speak against it. One of the few who spoke in favor was parent Dawn Lang, who said parents feel left out of the education conversation because they don’t have the advocacy groups to represent their views that teachers do.

“There’s a reason why this has come to the state level. There’s a reason why parents en masse, not just within the state of Indiana but other states as well, have reached a state of frustration where they feel like their problems can no longer be solved at the district level or at the local level, for that matter,” Lang said.

Many educators who spoke against the bill said the bill risks depriving students of the ability to learn from historical injustices and to learn how to interact with people who are not like them. Several, including science teacher Aaron Becker, said the bill could prevent them from having meaningful conversations with their students, particularly students of color, about the societal barriers they face and ways to get around them.

“Classrooms were meant to be havens where students could look past the limitations imposed by their exterior environment and look into their potential,” Becker said. “How can a student learn to hone their voice from a silenced teacher when this bill seems to give a fresh coat of paint to the ruins of censorship?”

The committee did not vote on the bill on Wednesday. Raatz said further changes and a vote will come next week. If the bill passes the full Senate, it would have to go back to the House due to the extensive changes.