Indiana lawmakers address controversial new education bill

NOW: Indiana lawmakers address controversial new education bill

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- Indiana lawmakers spoke about the controversial Senate Bill 167.

Sen. Scott Baldwin, who represents Indiana's 20th District and co-authored the bill, introduced it last week, saying “Some may think that this bill goes way too far, some think that this bill isn’t necessary, some are very adamant that this bill doesn’t go far enough.”

Sen. Mike Bohacek represents Indiana's 8th District, which includes LaPorte County and portions of Starke and St. Joseph Counties, and while he does not sit on the senate's Education Committee, he says the bill needs some work. 

“167 is really a complicated bill," he said. "It does about nine different things. So, you know, the way the bill is now, I can support some components of it, but I can’t support the way the bill is right now.”

The bill has some local educators concerned over its contents: “There’s just so many provisions within it that speak to a lack of understanding,” said Dr. Jim White, Bremen Public Schools' superintendent. 

The bill, which would increase parental and community oversight on school lesson plans, would also ban teaching courses that challenge preconceived notions on sex, race, religion or political affiliation. 

Activist groups like the NAACP Indianapolis are condemning the legislation, arguing “It will hurt children, teachers and unknowing communities in the state of Indiana.”

School teachers and staff, along with some public libraries, would also be removed from a list of entities defended by special legal protections, potentially opening them up to criminal charges if students are given "harmful" learning material. 

Sen. Bohacek said that some of these provisions seem unnecessary-- and counterproductive. 

“Having teachers try to make available their daily lesson plans seems to be extremely onerous on the teachers, when they’re already doing a ton of work after school as it is,” he said

He argued that kind of oversight is already available to parents, as they can address complaints to a school board that can handle the situation. Adding more oversight and restrictions would only negatively impact teachers and students. 

“It’s going to stifle their creativity in the classroom, where they will bring in current events, or where they will encourage their students to go out and find material to support or reject things that are going on in the world,” he added. 

Bohacek agreed that teachers should not directly influence a child's opinions or beliefs, though he thinks that teachers already avoid doing that, without needing any extra legislation-- and that Critical Race Theory is a topic that requires more discussion, despite it not typically appearing outside of college courses. 

ABC57 has reached out to members of the Indiana Senate Education Committee, including the bill's co-sponsor, Linda Rogers of District 11, but none of them were available to comment. 

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