Educators visit the Indiana State House for a rally over HB 1134.
Educators visit the Indiana State House for a rally over HB 1134.

What Was House Bill 1134?

April 18, 2022

How would House Bill 1134 have changed the future of Indiana’s education?  HB 1134 covered areas of public education that authorized parental involvement. The Indiana House of Representatives passed the bill with a 60-37 vote. It then went on to the Indiana Senate, where it got watered down and eventually died. 

In its original language, the bill would have required schools to post all educational materials on the school websites and would allow parents to opt their children out of any material they don’t see fit. HB 1134 raised controversy in Indiana, with arguments suggesting that it could aid in removing critical race theory from schools. 

Critical race theory is an academic concept that has left Hoosiers divided. As said by EducationWeek, CRT is the idea that “race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.” Proponents of HB 1134 said that the legislation would suppress any instruction of historical events that would make one feel superior or inferior to another student. With the bill going into play, it would ultimately prohibit the teaching of certain historical facts at all.  

The HB 1134 text also included, “a school corporation or qualified school may not promote certain concepts as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or director otherwise compel a school employee or student to adhere to certain tenets relating to the individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.” 

Additionally, the bill promised that a student would not be required to participate in any evaluation that serves the purpose of affecting a student’s attitude, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings without parental consent. Before a school wants to provide mental, social-emotional, or psychological services, they must request consent from the parents first.

Senate Bill 167 was HB 1134’s Senate counterpart, both containing language considering the prohibition of divisive content in classrooms. On January 13, 2022, SB 167 was amended to clarify that concepts such as Nazism may be condemned by teachers. Additional changes were made to both bills throughout their lifespans, which in time led to the contents of the bills being diminished. Eventually, SB 167 was killed by Senate lawmakers, taking HB 1134 down with it. 

If HB 1134 was passed, how would it have affected our community, and what lasting effects has it already made? 

In Martinsville, a group called the Martinsville Community Resource Group has established their concerns with certain topics being brought up in their children’s education. During the group’s first public meeting, nearly 30 people attended to express their concerns in the community and to create a vision for increased parent involvement in the community. The ideas included: removing objectionable books from the library, installing cameras in classrooms, and having parent monitors in halls and bathrooms. 

Monica Hutton, a mother of two boys in the MSD of Martinsville, spoke up about her worries in regards to what her child was learning in their freshman English class. Hutton described the material as “emotionally manipulative” and “politically biased.” After sharing her opinions, she reached out to other parents in the community and they shared similar concerns. If HB 1134 were to get passed, the MCRG and parents like Monica Hutton would be more comfortable with what their children are doing in the classroom. 

Martinsville teacher and parent, Shannon Adams, had a different perspective on HB 1134 before it was killed by lawmakers, and how it could affect Martinsville. She believed much of the bill had to do with fear being instilled in parents. “Fear makes you blind,”  Adams reported. She said that parents have always been encouraged to be involved in the curriculum and have had access to what students are learning. In response to the requirement that schools will have to post all lesson plans a year beforehand, Adams said, “It’s terrible practice to follow a schedule for a whole year. I teach based on what the room needs, not what the schedule says I have to do.” 

Adams also included that even though HB 1134 does not exist in its original form, damage has already been done. “I know teachers that are afraid to have very normal classroom conversations that are related to topics because of what this bill could mean, so it has already had a chilling effect.” In a legal context, a chilling effect means “the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction.” 

Finally, when asked about what the bill meant to her, Adams said this: “For me this is about democracy. And this is about we don’t just present one side of things, we present the sides and we talk about it and we learn on these really tough topics. We learn that we all don’t think alike, we all have different priorities, and we all see things with different amounts of importance. That makes us better people and it makes our society stronger. That’s one of the things public education does. It helps you see that there are a lot of sides to these really difficult topics and you’re not wrong for thinking the way you think, but neither is someone else. It is important that we have safe conversations and dialogue about things that aren’t easy to solve because it’s not going to get any easier to live in this world.” 

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