When searching for HB1134 – “Education Matters” bill in Indiana, you will be presented with multiple articles suggesting that the bill is “controversial” and will cause difficulties for teachers. If you are living in Indiana, you might have come across social media posts claiming how detrimental this bill is to education and teachers. Some articles suggest that the bill will cause more problems with the teacher shortages. All too often, these articles perpetuate falsehoods about the bill.
The truth about the bill is that HB1134 requires schools to be more transparent and allow parents the ability to have more input and involvement within their child’s school. The bill has a lot of components, but the push for transparency connects them all. The bill requires that schools post educational activities and curricula on their website and create a curriculum committee that consists of parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. These changes allow for parents to have input on what their child is learning and can bring a different perspective into the conversation regarding curriculum.
Despite the narrative that this bill encumbers teachers, the responsibilities of these two changes fall primarily on the administration of a school. Quite the contrary, the bill also supports teachers, staff, employees, and students that would object to a training that runs counter to their beliefs. For example, the bill forbids that an employee be required “to engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of racial or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”
Finally, the bill requires that schools gain parental consent for various educational activities. The bill requires consent for children participating in evaluations and surveys regarding attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings. There will also be consent needed if a third party vendor plans to do the evaluations as well and prevents the schools and third party vendors from maintaining a record of the responses. Parents will also need to provide a written consent for any mental, social-emotional, or psychological services provided to the child.
Most of the bill requirements should already be in practice by schools. When I was a school counselor, I shared my planned curriculum with parents, always had signed consent for having students participate in counseling activities, and communicated with parents regarding sensitive content. When it came to controversial or sensitive material and lessons, the parents were always provided with information regarding the topic, the chance to contact the school prior to the lesson or activity, opportunity to opt out, consent forms, and sometimes even parent nights to have the material presented to parents prior to students. When a child was having a tough day, yes the teacher asked what was wrong, but often passed this conversation to the school counselor. All this communication allowed for parents to volunteer, help, provide input, and helped reinforce what I was teaching to the students.
This bill will require schools to do what they should have been doing from the beginning and does not require more from the teacher. If anything, the bill requires the school administration to be more transparent with what is going on in the school and to have better communication with parents. The bill does not prevent the teaching of social studies. The bill does not require teachers to post lesson plans. This bill does not prevent teachers from asking how a child is doing. So, don’t believe exaggerations in the media; read the bill for yourself.