Rep. Prescott has introduced HB 1040 which has a little bit of everything: red-baiting, CRT panic, pro-COVID measures, sex. All in a school setting! This has at least elements that show up in other bills that are circulating through the General Assembly. So, even if this bill doesn’t advance, the likelihood is that you’ll see at least pieces of it moving in other legislation.
It repeals IC 20-19-5 which requires the Department of Education in cooperation with the Department of Child Services, Department of Correction, and the Division of Mental Health to develop and coordinate the children’s social, emotional, and behavioral health plan that is to provide recommendations concerning (A) comprehensive mental health services; (B) early intervention; and (C) treatment services. The plan is supposed to include, among other things:(1) procedures for the identification and assessment of social, emotional, and mental health issues; (2) procedures to assist a child and the child’s family in obtaining necessary services to treat social, emotional, and mental health issues; (3) procedures to coordinate provider services and interagency referral networks for an individual from birth through twenty-two (22) years of age; (4) guidelines for incorporating social, emotional, and behavioral development into school learning standards and education programs; and (5) that social, emotional, and mental health screening be included as a part of routine examinations in schools and by health care providers. The cynical part of me says he wants to get rid of this because “social, emotional, and mental health aren’t *real* issues.” Hopefully I’m doing the Representative a disservice and there’s something more innocuous and sensible going on with this repeal.
Next, we’re on to the Critical Race Theory part of the bill. (The Wikipedia entry makes it clear that the definition of CRT is pretty fuzzy. That entry has it as a cross-disciplinary and intellectual movement based on critical legal studies holding that, among other things, “racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals.” In common discourse, the definition can get even fuzzier. But as I discuss a little below, I don’t think the debate club objections to the definition or lack thereof end up being very persuasive.) In any case, the bill prohibits schools from promoting the following concepts:
(1) One (1) race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.(2) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.(3) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual’s race or sex.(4) Members of one (1) race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.(5) An individual’s moral character is determined by the individual’s race or sex.(6) An individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.(7) An individual should feel discomfort, guilt, or anguish or another form of psychological distress solely because of the individual’s race or sex.(8) Meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or designed by a particular race or sex to oppress members of another race or sex.(9) Indiana or the United States was founded as a racist or sexist state or nation and is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist.
First of all, I don’t like the General Assembly dictating curriculum. Second, it contains a private enforcement mechanism which creates a bounty in the amount of $5,000 plus attorney fees for successful prosecution. Regardless of the merits or lack of merit of the substance of the law, it creates incentives that will be an absolute shit show and will very much disincentivize schools from teaching, for example, historical oppression of a particular group even though the law specifically permits such instruction. The boundaries between the permissible and impermissible will be permeable enough to lead to expensive litigation.
As to the substance of these provisions, I don’t want to #BothSides the issue, but I’m gonna #BothSides the issue. I think politicians and policymakers on the right-wing are cynically exploiting fears people have about their kids by turning a molehill into a mountain. I think the left-wing commentariat is disingenuously trying to tell people that the molehill doesn’t exist. When this came up in the context of the Virginia elections, folks on the left often responded by adopting a very technical definition of what constitutes Critical Race Theory and saying it wasn’t taught anywhere and/or claiming that this was an effort to, for example, eliminate teaching that slavery was part of American history. There was little effort to grapple with the notion that curriculum informed by Critical Race Theory or Critical Theories generally might be making its way into course work, school support services, or other aspects of the educational system — even if Critical Race Theory itself was not taught. (As it happens, in West Lafayette an anti-racist advocacy group has presented the school board with a demand to “add a course in critical race theory to the core curriculum.” The demand, presented in the Summer of 2020, predated the Virginia election campaigns.) On the right, there seems to be a deliberate effort to misunderstand how racism in the past can lead to structural inequality in the present. Caught in the middle are people who don’t have any particular interest in the power struggle but who are open to working with others to make things more equitable. As with so many things these days, there are some fairly loud people demonizing people on the other side, so it is easy to ignore people of good will quietly trying to figure out the best way to make things better. This bill will absolutely not be productive to people of good will. But, maybe it will help people screaming at each other to get elected.
And then we move on to the pro-COVID provisions. Basically, it lets anyone – student or teacher – opt out of a mask requirement. It also prohibits requiring a student or school employee to be vaccinated against COVID as a condition of attendance. The traditional move is to characterize this as a pro-liberty move. But, as Jeremy Bentham observed, “rights and obligations, though distinct and opposite in their nature, are simultaneous in their origin, and inseparable in their existence. According to the nature of things, the law cannot grant a benefit to any, without, at the same time, imposing a burden on some one else[.]” In this case, the right to be mask-free necessarily requires others to breathe more of the virus-laden air expelled by the person exercising that right. There’s always going to be tension when balancing individual rights with the well-being of the community. In the middle of a pandemic, this is not the right balance to strike. For the most part, we should leave these decisions in the hands of our public health officers who can respond in a manner that’s both better informed and more agile than what can be done by the legislature.
But, Doug, you may ask — does this bill fight communism? Yes, dear reader. Of course it does. This bill is a floor wax *and* a dessert topping. Students must receive instruction that socialism is incompatible with the principles of freedom upon which the United States was founded and that if it were to replace our current form of government, “the government of the United States would be overthrown and existing freedoms under the Constitution would no longer exist.” Never mind that most Americans wouldn’t know socialism if it deposited a social security check into their FDIC-insured bank accounts. This instruction isn’t limited to socialism but also applies to “Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems.” Not sure if this totalitarianism or ‘similar political systems’ would encompass fascist or nationalist ideologies.
Onto sex. A school has to get parental consent before providing instruction on (1) abortion; (2) birth control or contraceptives; (3) sexual activity; (4) sexual orientation; (5) transgenderism; or (6) gender identity. (Is being transgender an ‘ism’?) This is well-trodden area in the culture wars. I’ll just mention that the best way to reduce the need for abortions is to provide good sex education and access to contraception.
And now “transparency.” There’s an incredibly burdensome online posting requirement for books, lectures, and “all materials presented to students in connection with an educational activity.” This will require a great deal of effort on the part of the school, and very little of the material will be reviewed. Of the material reviewed, I suspect a good chunk of that will be associated more with political axe grinding than any real effort to engage with the school on improving the quality of instruction received by students. The cost/benefit analysis of these provisions is heavy on the “cost” side and light on the “benefit” side.
Finally, there is a prohibition on providing students with mental health services without parental consent. The legislation singles out counseling with respect to abortion and gender identity for special attention but seems to require consent even for behavioral evaluations, personality analyses, mental health surveys, and assessments for the purpose of providing multi-tiered systems of support and positive behavior interventions. Seems like this will hamstring schools seeking to adjust educational approaches based on particular behavioral needs of the students.
Cheap sex contraception not just condoms. If we could supply young adults without means to learn about the good birth control that works up to three months and then give them cheap or free access to contraception that is controlled by the female. It would knock the abortion rate in half. The odds of these parents would opt out of sex education classes in my opinion are low. My youngest brother had a sex education class in Ohio back in 1978 and they went over every type of contraception available with zero parental consent. .
There are many parents that will deny that their child has any mental health problems. Then what does the schools do?
Stuart Swenson says
Regarding your last question, the school prepares to show everything they did to warn the parents and the parent whose child was damaged (or killed) who claims that the school was negligent in order to prove that they did everything they could to stop the kid from destruction. They will be in close contact with their attorney to show their requirements to maintain safety in the schools and prevent terrible events and how to balance them off this crazy legislation. They will also designate the person who will attend the funeral of the one who was murdered. I’m certainly not a lawyer (by any definition), but it’s something I’ve seen. This law only results in a great deal of suffering.
It all makes me want to rip my hair out! On a more positive note,it also inspires me to take my liberal Hoosier behind back to school for teaching credentials! I know what a decent education looks like, as well as the necessity of one in shaping children into well-rounded,critical thinking adults-( who are at least SOMEWHAT immune to disinformation and brainwash). I have 3 kids. My oldest two graduated from Indiana public schools,and my youngest is 8 years younger than my middle. The standards and academics were similar for the older two,and I have very few complaints. However,my youngest is in second semester of 7th grade and there is one strange difference. These 13 year old teens have not had ANY form of sex ed. The other two kids-same school-had it in 6th grade,during the health portion of PE. It was divided by gender and they only learned about their own “functions” and brief mention of condoms,birth control pills and abstinence( no mention of plan B which was disappointing-but luckily I am not shy about honest convo’s with teens). But it was SOMETHING. What is really strange,however,is that I went to Catholic school K-12,in Illinois,late 80s-90s,and I had co-ed sex ed in FIFTH grade,and it was COMPREHENSIVE. We did not learn about contraception at that point,but we learned anatomy and processes in depth.In HS,though they emphasized abstinence until marriage,the sin of abortion,and taught “the natural family planning method” for married contraception,we still got the run down on the options for birth control and alternatives to “full blown sex”. Some of the teachers were nuns! Go figure. So,I have a suspicion some post 2016 laws may be affecting this current lack of sex ed? We live in the Northwestern,*slightly more blue than red* portion of the state,so we still have decent academic topics in History and ELA,but these bills threaten that. Over my dead body will they castrate the ability of our teachers to provide a well rounded education!! Get loud comrades! ?
Oh I forgot “UNFUNDED MANDATES”!!!! Typical of every legislature in the country!!!! LOL
Gayl Killough says
Critical race theory is a well established academic field with decades of research. Critical race theory as a label should only be used in referencing a well established academic field. It should not be allowed to be used as something that has “definitions” made up on a whim, yet is similarly close enough to confuse people. Wikipedia is not a credible source. No both sides to it, as there is already a well established definition for several decades that is NOT anything remotely closes to what many are making up about critical race theory. People can complain about what is taught in schools all they want, but call it something else, call it anything else that is not already an established term. Everyone involved should have vetted this long ago and not allowed it to get to this point of misuse.
Reminds me of when I first got on the Internet a long time ago, there were always people trying to correct the misuse of the term “hacker” when what people really meant was “cracker.” A “hacker,” in the true sense, was just someone who found creative uses for technology. A “cracker” was a person whose creative uses were malicious. But, at a certain point, that horse was out of the barn and the person using their time in the discussion trying to make that distinction was usually going to be out of luck. Not only were they not ultimately persuasive; people started dismissing them as cranks and/or sympathetic to the malicious types of hackers.
I don’t know if we’re at that point with CRT, but it feels a little bit like that in my corners of the Internet.
https://www.in.gov/sboa/files/chsch2021_003.pdf This is the Legend of Fund Types and definitions for the Indiana Public School Form 9 – Need this to make sense of all those fund numbers. when you win a seat on the school board. A little trivia here – Educational License Plates 1850 close to half (not W Laf) of the school corps don’t spend this money. The weird thing is the bulk of these funds appeared on the books before 2008 (the Form 9 database goes back that far) and only a couple of hundred dollars seems to trickle in yearly. .Oh well that’s a back burner issue
I finished the ECA excel spreadsheet and there is over a million and a half (yahoo!!! W.Laf was able to get the 6 grand from the Cumberland student council fund. on the books from 2014 Thank god for small miracles) dollars of dormant funds. . If nothing happens on this problem this week I may have to take the path of least resistance. Haven’t been on the news in almost 40 years. Grin – Sad part there is over $350 thousand dollars in dormant scholarships. memorial, awards, fund raisers. and grants dating from 2017 to ? (in 2006 a teacher died in and over four grand is still in the memorial fund money donated as a funeral request hmmm 15 years) and the schools know the money is there but no one has ever stepped up to get it. Crazy!!!!! Wish me luck!
Stuart Swenson says
Phil, I hope you find this relevant. I’ve seen many school board elections where the candidate parades his/her issue or agenda that far exceeds his/her authority, e.g., “when I get on the school board, I’ll fire that superintendent!” When he/she won, the first assignment was to go to Indianapolis and have a discussion with a state attorney who discussed the power and limitations of a school board member. On returning, the new member returned chastened, realizing that one may or may not do a lot of good, but it’s really easy to do a lot of bad and stupid stuff.
The thing I detest about lets run for the school board on the issue of critical race theory and banning certain books and curriclium in school, is that is about one percent of what is required of a school board member. School budgets, teacher contracts, overseeing that the superintendent is doing their job is just three of the duties that come to mind that a good school board member should be focused on. Unless they have a educational background they shouldn’t be voting on the curriculium that needs to be taught in the classroom.. That is why you hire a superintendent to make those decisions. . Now if state legislators get involved then the board members and superintendents hands are tied.
What some superintendents are doing is getting a lawyer to draft their contracts then getting the school board members to ratify the contract so it makes it harder to get rid of them. That’s ok if you have a good superintendent but get a bad one your behind the eight ball.. If II was on the school board I would have the school board lawyer go over the contract and make sure there were no provisions in the contract giving the superintendent bargaining power over the school board.
In most by-laws (I wonder how many board menbesr actually read them) it gives the school board total control over the entire school corporation. Of course you need a majority of votes to exercise most of their power and what your doing has to be legal..
The reason class basketball came about in Indiana was the superintendents and principals were tired of being fired over bad basketball teaams. At least that is my theory ;and I’m sticking to it! Grin!
When I get time I am going to give my opinion on how to win a school board election. Proper sign placement is critical and where to place them.
“School budgets, teacher contracts, overseeing that the superintendent is doing their job is just three of the duties that come to mind that a good school board member should be focused on.”
The role of the school board is to hire and fire the superintendent and set board policy.
A good board member should hire a good superintendent, let that superintendent hire a good central office staff and insure that they operate within the policy.
Board members aren’t trained in school finance just like they aren’t trained in curriculum. I have seen more school budgets cocked up by overinvolved board members than budgets that have been helped with input from board members by far.
I don’t totally agree with you on your above post. I would look at the stipends and ask how robotic high school teachers get less money then 7th grade and 8th grade B team basketball coaches. The robotic teachers run the club all year.. Why the ECA arts teachers (choir, band, theater, etc) always lose out to sports when it comes to ECA stipends.
I have identified over 1.5 million dollars in ECA funds (no recirepts or expenditures) the schools know on the funds are on books but cannot access them due to an archaic law. My high school I attended has over $28 thiusand (Elwood is small) sitting on the books. As a school board member I would ask how can we access the money. Note — It’s been sent with a spreadsheet to a state senator Sunday, hoping for the best.
Doug’s high school has $91,000.00 in funds that dated back 2008 – 2010 and one to 2015 on the Form 9 FINANCIAL REPORT Summary of Receipts and Expenditures. If I was a school board member I would want to know why the money is still sitting (no recirepts or expenditures) on the books and is there anyway to access the funds. There is money on over a quarter of school corporation in various fund. On fund number 1850 License Plate Money – over half of the school districts do not spend the money when the bulk of the money landed on the books before 2008. Why? In the thousands. Could be more archaic laws it’s worth asking then seeing if they can be changed.
I have seen Superintendent run up astronomical .credit card bills and it is not caught until they have moved on. No reason why a school board member can’t ask for detailed information once every six months. I have seen some crazy entries on the accounts payable report. Teen exercise (nothing to do with the school) classes, dog and cat hospital and shelter bills to name just a few.entries. I would keep a eye on how contracts are rewarded, they could be going to a company the superintendent is friends with. Seen where a compamy over a hundred miles from Indy gets a contract when their are over 50 companies in Indy that could do the job. If what county do you want your tax money spent.? Yours of course!
Basically school board members are spoon fed all of their information from the administration. If you have a school superintendent that’s doing whatever they want with no checks and balances then your screwed. There is no reason with all the information online a good school board member can’t check all the information yearly.It’s not that hard thanks to Google.
Everything you point out about ECAs is part of board policy. As are the issues about superintendent expenditures. As are the issues about choosing vendors, though those sometimes involve purchasing laws.. Insure the board policy is being followed.
I have chosen professionals to provide services to schools in the past. I have chosen professionals in my community, county, neighboring counties and from 100s of miles away. We use a rubric that accounts for cost, experience and expertise. All in accordance with board policy and vetted by the board.
Stuart Swenson says
I’ve been reading some of the education-oriented bills. Every year, I’m amazed at how ignorant yet arrogant some of this stuff is. Many of these writers don’t know basic educational law or what is available, and produce incredible and astounding proposals, One would expect bills to be at the point where subtle points of clarification would be discussed. No. They are simply demonstrations of ignorance that require emergency intervention that don’t make sense: “Oh, no! Please don’t!” Even the postcards from these guys are amazing: Among their “accomplishments” are returning tax money when the state is 33 in qualify of life.
I can only assume that since many of our legislators come from parts of Indiana where the population is fleeing and moving either out of state or within Indiana to larger cities like Indianapolis and Lafayette and such, they just don’t see the point in investing in the future because they don’t see one for themselves.