BILL 167

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India Smith, Staff Writer

On January 5, 2022, the  Indiana Senate had a committee meeting for a new education bill in Indiana. The name of the bill is “Education Matters,” which allows the parents of students to have a say in what their child would be learning about. Teachers would have to alter their lesson plans to accommodate the parents’ wishes of what should be taught. If Bill 167 had passed, it would have “[limited] what students could be taught about race, history and injustices, such as slavery”(Herron Indiana Senate bill that spurred Nazism remarks stalls; similar proposal advances). Though this bill was denied in Indiana’s Senate there was a similar House bill proposed, HB1134, that was also rejected.

Many teachers were conflicted about the implications of Bill 167 and the House bill 1134, and how it would have affected the way their students learn about certain subjects. Teachers are supposed to remain impartial on many touchy subjects like Nazism, Fascism, and Marxism and only present the facts to their students. This allows the kids to form their own opinions on such subjects, but the bill gave teachers an uneasy feeling. One teacher in particular, Matt Bockenfeld, a History teacher at Fishers High School, was afraid that the bill would take away years of history from America’s pursuit to become a country and “tell students that those years say nothing about who we are as a nation.”  

Teachers are not the only ones who were concerned about the problems the bill could have caused. Many people in the Black community were upset with the bill and that it would have required teachers to be impartial on subjects such as slavery. The bill could imply that slaves “were just regrettable bystanders on our march toward justice but their lives were so meaningless they don’t define our story in any way,” said Bockenfeld. Chiquela Banks, a student’s mother, questioned, “How could you attempt to create a law that tells my son’s teachers they cannot teach how systemic racism has negatively impacted societies of color in Indiana and in this nation to this day?” Other groups like the African American Coalition of Indianapolis, Urban League, Indiana Black Expo, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People took a stand against the bill. 

Marshawn Wolley, a father who is also a member of the AACI, Indianapolis Urban League, the Indiana Black Expo was a speaker at a press conference held by one of Indiana’s largest teacher unions. He said that “[he] was extremely disturbed about the conversation [referring to bill 167 limiting what teachers can include in their lesson plans] that’s been happening.” Wolley feels as though the way that the bill is written, might cause teachers to leave out context for important historical events such as how Jim Crow laws and racism fed into one another. Dr. Ivan Hicks, who is with the NAACP, described the bill as being ¨heinous” and that it “seeks to divide and does not bring us together as a community.” 

These groups of parents, teachers, and community members will continue to fight against future bills that threaten to censor children’s education simply because the parents of students are uncomfortable with their kids learning about serious topics related to America’s history.