(INDIANAPOLIS) – The bill setting limits on how schools teach about racism is headed for a Senate vote on Tuesday.
Senators have already slimmed down the definition of concepts labeled off-limits. The bill now bars teaching that any group is superior to another, inherently responsible for past injustices, or entitled to preferential treatment.
Indianapolis Democrat Fady Qaddoura says it’s a vast improvement over the House bill, but still fundamentally flawed. He says thousands of Hoosiers have personally experienced discrimination, yet legislators are intervening not to address that history, but to soothe discomfort other students may feel about it. He argues the bill sends students a message they can deal with problems through censorship, and predicts its complaint procedures will “put a target on teachers’ backs.”
The Senate Education Committee voted 8-5 to send the bill to the full Senate, a month after Senate leaders scuttled the panel’s first attempt at the proposal. The committee renewed its consideration after the House passed its version.
Oldenburg Republican Jean Leising joined Democrats in voting against the bill. She says she’s heard from superintendents, school board members, and especially teachers in her district who oppose it, while conservative parents in her district are dissatisfied with the Senate’s changes
The committee narrowly rejected an amendment to spell out not just what schools can’t teach, but what they must. Gary Democrat Eddie Melton would have required high school U-S history classes to incorporate key elements of black history, including slavery, Reconstruction and the civil rights movement. Melton says the language mirrors a provision already in state law requiring schools to teach about the Holocaust.
The amendment failed 7-6, with Republicans Scott Baldwin of Noblesville and Kyle Walker of Indianapolis joining Democrats to support it.
House Republicans have already indicated there will be further discussions on a final version of the bill if the Senate passes it on Tuesday. Qaddoura argues that’s another reason for the Senate to kill the bill. He says it still contains elements of the original House version, and says any additional discussion is likely to move further in that direction.
Governor Holcomb hasn’t taken a position on the bill, though he echoes comments from senators in both parties that the Senate version represents a big improvement. He says the focus should be on ensuring parents are fully informed about curriculum and have an opportunity for input. Holcomb says he’s been talking with legislators about the bill, but won’t decide whether to sign or veto it until it’s in its final form.