Lauer, Lucas vote for controversial curriculum bill, in House approval

INDIANAPOLIS — Two local representatives voted for a Republican-backed bill approved by the Indiana House which says that academic subjects deemed to constitute a “divisive concept” should be avoided in all public classrooms.

House Bill 1134, authored by State Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, would limit what teachers can say in class on sensitive subjects, prohibiting them from using materials that “present any form of racial or sex-stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”

The bill received the support of Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, and State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and was approved Wednesday by a vote of 60-37. While the proposal could be taken up as early as next week in the Indiana Senate, a twin measure Senate Bill 167 died in the Senate earlier this month.

The proposed legislation would also require classroom materials to be posted online and vetted by parent review committees, as well as restrict teaching about racism and politics.

However, dozens of educators have spoken against the bill, arguing that it would silence classroom discussions of racism and history because teachers would be afraid of losing their teaching licenses.

The Senate bill was dropped after Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, said his bill would require teachers to be impartial and refrain from taking a position when discussing Nazism and other extreme political ideologies, which resulted in national news coverage criticizing the Indiana legislator and the bill.

Baldwin later walked back his comments, saying he meant to say he “unequivocally” condemns Nazism, fascism and Marxism, and that he agrees that teachers “should condemn those dangerous ideologies.”

But Lauer maintains that HB 1134 increases transparency of K-12 school curricula and restricts students from accessing “harmful materials” at libraries.

“For almost a half-century until 2011, we had local curriculum and textbook advisory boards that included a majority of parents,” Lauer said. “We want to bring some of that control back and give parents the opportunity to have a central role in our education. People don’t want to see politics and divisiveness being taught to our children.”

Lauer said it makes sense to “everyday Hoosiers that schools should not be teaching perspectives that divide people based on their characteristics, race, religion or creed.

For the complete story, see Saturday’s Republic.