Educators have concerns over new Indiana senate education bill

NOW: Educators have concerns over new Indiana senate education bill

BREMEN, Ind. -- Some Michiana teachers and administrators are concerned about Indiana Senate Bill 167, because it adds more oversight and restrictions, at a time when they are already dealing with staff shortages and stressful times. 

“No one’s taken the time to ask about the scope and volume of the proposed legislation and the impact it’s going to have on local school districts,” said Dr. Jim White, the superintendent of Bremen Public Schools. 

Bill 167 was filed last Thursday, and would introduce a host of restrictions on educators. 

The bill, which was introduced as a way to effectively ban Critical Race Theory in public schools, would require a committee composed mostly of parents and community members to approve school curriculum, and would allow parents the ability to opt their children out of courses that they disagree with. 

And under the bill, schools and some public libraries could be held criminally liable if a parent believes their child was given "harmful" learning materials, something that troubles Dr. White, fearing that could make schools targets.

He said “It seems as if we want to narrow the ideology of who and what is normal and what is appropriate.”

Another troubling aspect of the bill: if passed, students could not be evaluated by counselors or school-appointed psychologists without parental consent. Some fear this provision can prevent students from getting the help they need. 

“If a teacher thinks that a child is in crisis, everything that we have been taught throughout the schooling that we have received is to react, to be empathetic, to meet that child’s needs and understand because if that child is in crisis, that child is suicidal, that child might be a school-shooter—we need to react as the adults to help them,” said Dr. White. 

He also believes this rhetoric is being fueled by a misinterpretation of  of Critical Race Theory-- which has never been taught at Bremen Public Schools-- and there has been no effort to correct that from legislation. 

Dr. White said “I’ve had some private meetings with legislators, and I remember distinctly, I told them ‘you guys realize CRT [Critical Race Theory] isn’t a thing.’ And they said ‘oh yeah, we know that, but our constituents want it.’ And so really we’ve been made to the point where adults are not in the room. This is just a rule-by-mob, whoever has the loudest voice is heard.”

And he feels the bill will only add to the problems of an already stressed workforce of teachers. 

"How are we going to continue the teaching pipeline if they know they’re going to be targets?" he asked "Why would you put yourself through that? Why would you go into this? Why would you continue to be a teacher if you have other options? This could blow up and exaggerate an existing teacher shortage."

Which, according to Dr. White, is a disservice to the hard work of teachers who stepped up during the pandemic and have strived to do the best that they can do with their students. 

“What are we being rewarded with?" Dr. White asked. "Negative rhetoric and legislation that hurts educators.”

The Indiana General Assembly is set to have their first session of 2022 tomorrow, though a vote on Bill 167 has not yet been scheduled. 

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