The Indiana Attorney General’s “Eyes on Education” webpage includes a portal to upload documents and links to the submissions. (Screenshot/The Indiana Citizen)

By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

February 7, 2024

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office has launched a new online platform that it says provides  “real examples of socialist indoctrination” from Hoosier classrooms but one Indiana education professor compared the posts to writings on a bathroom wall and said they could have a “chilling effect” in the classroom.

The “Eyes on Education” webpage, which went live on the attorney general’s website Monday, includes both a portal where individuals can submit images of educational materials they find objectionable and a list of school corporations with links to images of what appear to be pages from handouts, class assignments and tests that have been submitted.

All of the school corporations listed on the webpage are public schools.

Most documents are posted with no identification of whomever made the submission or explainer text to give more understanding as to how the material was used in the classroom. Instructions on the webpage tell visitors to select their school and upload the documents – with no further proof required as to the authenticity of those submissions.

Submissions made through the portal, according to the webpage, will be “reviewed and published regularly,” but it does not identify who is responsible for those reviews or the process by which they will be reviewed.

In a press release, Rokita indicated the portal was a response to concerns he has heard from students, parents and teachers about “destructive curricula, policies or programs” in Indiana schools.

“Our kids need to focus on fundamental educational building blocks, NOT ideology that divides kids from their parents and normal society,” Rokita stated in the press release. “The media and schools themselves have continued to deny that this indoctrination is happening here in Indiana, so my office is launching Eyes on Education – a platform for students and parents to submit and view real examples of socialist indoctrination from classrooms across the state.”

However, Christopher Lubienski, director of the Center for Evaluation and Education at Indiana University – Bloomington, described the webpage as having a “chilling effect” on teaching and putting more pressure on educators.

The portal, he said, is part of the conservative agenda to expand parental rights in the broader culture war on education. Other states have introduced legislation or polices that allow parents to file complaints about teachers’ conduct, Lubienski said, but, he added, Indiana’s effort stands out because the portal is more about questioning a teacher’s professional judgment.

“It’s not having an enlightening effect because it’s out of context,” Lubienski said, adding the postings are making accusations, but the accused have not been given any space to challenge the inferences or explain what happened in the classroom. “Some of these things that I’m seeing here are just a little bit head scratching … but, I think, that this could have a chilling effect of getting teachers to avoid these crucial topics altogether.”

Lubienski pointed to images of what appears to be a single page from a government class quiz, which asks the students to differentiate between liberal and conservative views.

“There’s not an ideological agenda here,” Lubienski said of the quiz. “It’s meant to instruct people about how politics works.”

The attorney general’s office declined to answer any questions about the webpage.

 Brownsburg Community Schools and Center Grove Community Schools, two of the 13 school districts on the list that appears on the webpage, said they had not been contacted by the attorney general’s office.

“The documents appear to be outdated screenshots of emails and social media comments from three years ago,” Center Grove said in an email. “Any parent concerns shared with administrators were addressed appropriately at that time.”

Of the two submissions identified as being used in Brownsburg schools, one is a list of books with descriptions, including page numbers, of what the document says is their “sexually sensitive content.” However, a spokeswoman from the Brownsburg Community School Corp. said that document is not from Brownsburg schools.

Lubienski does not see the information on the portal as being helpful.

“The attorney general’s office seems to be putting the publicity in front of the ethical issue,” Lubienski said. “So, rather than doing any investigation and determining if there was any kind of infraction, they’re just leading with the accusation, which makes them look not much better than (writings on) a bathroom wall.”

Much of the material posted on the webpage seems to focus on books and instructional materials that reference gender identity, racism, and diversity and equity. The submissions include photos of computer screens taken over students’ shoulders, an assignment to write a paragraph in response to a question about ridding society of any form of racist behavior, a picture of what is identified as a “pride flag featuring a Black Lives Matter symbol,” and minutes from an Indiana University School of Medicine executive committee meeting.

The webpage states the attorney general’s office will follow up on the materials submitted that may violate Indiana law. The office would use its “investigative tools,” such as public records requests, and publish the findings on the webpage.

The ACLU of Indiana posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Rokita is trying to intimidate teachers from discussing racial equity and LGBTQ issues with students. “Classroom inclusivity benefits everyone,” the ACLU of Indiana stated. “Classroom censorship does nothing but harm.”

The Indiana Department of Education said in an email it was not made aware of the construction or launch of the portal.

In a statement, Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, called for the “immediate removal” of the webpage.

“While (Rokita is) busy with his online endeavors, let’s not forget who’s truly dedicated to the vital task of ensuring our children receive the support they need for success: the hardworking parents and educators on the front lines every day,” Gambill said in the statement. “It’s time to end these divisive tactics and commit to helping all students succeed.”

The Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents declined to comment.

Also, Rep. Robert Behning, Republican chair of the House Education Committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, a Democratic member of the House Education Committee, called the Eyes on Education webpage “an inquisition” and accused Rokita of “playing politics.” The attorney general, he said, is causing trouble for school districts and scaring schools and teachers.

Rather than focus on doing his job of handling criminal appeals, giving legal advice to state agencies, and defending the state in litigation, DeLaney said Rokita is wasting his office’s time and resources on this webpage. Moreover, DeLaney, a retired Indianapolis attorney, said, the webpage is potentially exposing Indiana to a libel or defamation lawsuit.

The lawmaker pointed out that as the Indiana General Assembly is debating legislation about reading proficiency in third graders, the Eyes on Education webpage just “stirs up debate” and potentially injures the reputations of schools and teachers.

“Instead of spending time teaching kids to read,” DeLaney said of Indiana educators, “they’ll be spending time dealing with accusations.”

 Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.


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