Your teacher friends on social media are at it again. Chances are, you are seeing a bunch of them posting things about Indiana Senate Bill 167. Depending on your political slant, you may take their posts seriously, or you may just write them off as more whining from a bunch of disgruntled teachers. As I write this, I really don’t care which side you are on because if this insane bill passes, you WILL be dealing with the fallout—everyone will. That’s a promise. If this bill passes, you will be dealing with where you’re going to send your kids to school because teachers all over the state are already making plans for new careers in case the worst-case scenario happens. Schools will not be able to remain open when the already short-staffed institutions become even more depleted. If you support SB Bill 167, or even if you are in the apathetic camp, you’d damn-well better be preparing to home school your kids. I can already hear what some of you are thinking—oh, here’s another bleeding-heart liberal teacher who’s trying crazy scare tactics to claim the sky is falling. Well, before you go there, at least let me show you what I’m talking about.
This Republican-written and sponsored bill is truly hard to believe. It is designed to play to the fears of the far-right conservative evangelical crowd which has been led to believe that public school teachers are indoctrinating students with anti-American and anti-Christian propaganda. The bill claims to be a stop gap to keep teachers’ “personal agendas” from influencing students. Before I go on, let me say that I truly believe that teachers should not impose their personal socio-political/religious beliefs upon their students. That shouldn’t happen in any public school. If it does happen, then that’s an isolated local issue that should be handled between the school administration and the teacher. But SB 167 takes this to extremes that are mind-boggling. Let’s look at what’s in this bill, shall we?
- Under the provisions of SB 167, teachers would be required to post lesson plans and curricular materials in advance with “sufficient time for parental review.” If parents were not happy with the content in the plans, they could opt their child out of those lessons and the teacher would be required to provide different lessons for that particular child.
Imagine a US history teacher has planned a unit that focusses on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and a parent is uncomfortable with their child learning about such an uncomfortable subject. That parent could contact the school and opt their child out of learning that unit and a teacher would be required to provide some other unit for that child to study. What would you do? How would you plan something that would cover the same standards so that the child would get an equitable understanding as the other students without offending their parents? It’s asinine.
- Under the provisions of SB 167, the curriculum of the district would be “determined by a committee composed of 60% parents and community members and 40% educators.” All members of the committee must be school board approved. There is no requirement that any actual classroom teachers be on the committee.
You read that right, the curriculum taught by highly trained professional teachers would be developed by a committee made up of a 60% majority of parents and random members of the community, any one of which may have absolutely no educational credentials or backgrounds. The motive behind this provision is blatantly clear; under the guise of preventing indoctrination by public school teachers, the authors of this bill are providing an unincumbered pathway to their own brand of indoctrination. Let the community decide what the history of our country is and let them enforce the teaching of it as they see fit. This is truly scary stuff.
- Under the provisions of SB 167, educators would be banned from “repeatedly interacting with students on social-emotional issues without prior parental consent.”
Any teacher who works in a setting where there is a high level of socio-economic diversity will have plenty of stories about students who come from unimaginably traumatic home situations. It is a significant part of a teacher’s job to be vigilant about the social-emotional well-being or our students. In fact, we are held legally accountable for it. If we see or hear anything that a child says or does that is a red flag as to their safety and well-being, we are legally bound to drop everything else and immediately report the matter to Child Protective Services. Now, the same state that put that law into place is proposing a new law that would forbid teachers from repeatedly interacting with students about social-emotional issues without prior parental consent. Should I call all my students’ parents at the beginning of the year to ask their permission to interact with the child a second time when the child references committing suicide or otherwise harming themselves or others? What madness!
- Under the provisions of SB 167, teachers who have been perceived to have been in violation of any of these policies can be subject to severe penalties if there is a complaint filed by a parent. What’s more, the complaint need not be filed by a parent of an actual student in that teacher’s class.
In other words, if some random parent hears second hand of something that I taught in my class and doesn’t like it, they could file a complaint against me even if I don’t teach their child. Such a complaint could potentially lead to my unpaid suspension, termination, and even the revoking of my teachers’ license. Can you imagine the nightmarish possibilities of such a policy?
Everything I just covered is a very real possibility if Senate Bill 167 passes and goes into law. Is it any wonder why so many teachers are sharing this on social media?
In my position as a writer on the state of education, I hear from a lot of teachers from all over the state and nation. What I am about to write next isn’t a scientific survey, it’s just what I have heard from hundreds of teachers. Just about everyone I’ve heard from, regardless of years of experience, is making immediate preparations to move on to some other career should this ridiculous piece of legislation pass and become law. In an educational landscape where we are already in a severe crisis with staffing in most school districts across the state, I see no way whatsoever that schools will be able to function after the mass exodus that would surely result from the passage of SB 167.
You can sit back and do nothing if you want. Most people will. You can choose not to believe me. Many people won’t. Or you could do everything in your power to make a big stink. Contact your legislators, shout the warning to the four winds, beat the drum loudly and cause a ruckus. Whatever you choose to do, it’s your choice and it’s your right.
Just start getting prepared to figure out what you’re going to do about your kids’ education because if this bill passes, you’re going to have to do something drastically different.
That’s a guarantee.
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