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‘Divisive concepts’ House Bill 1134 misses 2nd reading deadline, dies in Senate

Indiana teachers unexpectedly got what they have been advocating for during the General Assembly’s 2022 session—the death of House Bill 1134.

After hours of Senate Republicans meeting in caucus and the bill being moved to the end of the Senate calendar twice, Senate sponsor Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, passed on the bill during the second reading deadline. This means the bill—which would have created a curriculum advisory committee, required schools to maintain learning management systems and prohibited teaching of certain “divisive concepts”—is officially dead.

But Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said legislators may incorporate the concepts in other education bills.

According to Bray, some members of the caucus did not think the legislation went far enough while others thought it created a burden for teachers.

Members of the Indiana State Teachers Association, a union representing 40,000 Indiana educators, have been donning red and lobbying against the bill at the Indiana Statehouse since January. The ISTA released a statement on the death of the legislation.

“Thanks to educators, parents, community members and a broad coalition of Hoosiers who made their voices heard that HB 1134 has no place in Indiana,” ISTA President Keith Gambill said in the statement.

Gambill also warned parts of the legislation could re-emerge during conference committees.

During Tuesday’s Senate session, the legislators pushed all controversial bills to the end of the roll. The Senate Republicans paused the session to meet as a caucus several times, during which they likely discussed the fate of the bill behind closed doors.

At the time the bill was dismissed, it had 25 amendments, most of them by Democrats. A fight to amend the bill by Democrats was also made in the Senate Education and Career Development Committee prior to the committee vote last week.

Roger’s amendment largely gutted the bill. Rogers pared down the “divisive concepts” listed in the bill, loosened the requirement for teachers to post materials to a requirement that parents have access to learning management systems, and sent the mental health aspect to a study committee.

The bill’s author, Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, was disappointed it was watered down.

“We have about 10 things that are in this. About six of them I can agree with,” Cook said, “more than likely because it moves it into a better position.”

The future for HB 1134 looked dreary when Senate Bill 167, a very similar “anti-CRT” bill, was pulled by Bray after the author, Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, made national news for telling a teacher he would need to remain neutral when teaching about Nazism. But the House passed the bill 60-37, mostly along party lines, and the watered-down bill was less restrictive than the initial legislation.

Taylor Wooten is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.