Our changing learning environment and what you need to know


House Bill 1134, and others with similar language, are education bills in the Indiana State legislature waiting to be voted on. The content of the bills is causing an uproar among teachers throughout the state. What exactly is in these bills and how will they affect us as students? 

Part of the bill proposes mandates that would require more curriculum transparency and much more parental oversight in what is being taught at school. Currently, many schools are already using Google Classroom, which allows parents access to most, if not all, of the materials being used in the classroom. However, this new law requires teachers to post all topics and activities in a timely manner. The curriculum will continue to be scrutinized under an advisory board with both faculty and parents present. Alterations will then be made to the curriculum as seen fit. Parents will also have the option to opt their children out of certain assignments and teachers will need to provide an alternate activity.

This sounds like an outstanding idea on a sheet of paper. Although, the reality of this situation is quite the opposite. At the moment, parents already have access and all parents are allowed to voice their opinions by going through the proper channels if they deem the curriculum unfit. With the advisory board overseeing things, it will be up to a few individuals to decide what we as students learn. There will be no variables allowed, no differing opinions, and everything will have to be correct according to the advisors on the board. I’m sure controversial topics like race and politics will surely be the first to come under fire. 

In my opinion, I, as a student, learn the most from a less structured classroom. A classroom where I get life advice if I ask, debate political topics that come from our designated reading, or the days in class when we talk about our hopes and dreams. These discussions allow us to be more in touch with who we are and allow us to make a pathway toward who we are going to be. Sadly, with this kind of curriculum we might only get half of the stories, opinions, and ideas that are truly out there. 

The bill also impacts the way teachers and guidance counselors handle the social and emotional health of students.  While not all of us utilize the guidance counselors as a way of coaching us through difficult issues, some do. House bill 1134 states that all students must have a parental consent form for the counselors to be able to help in that student’s time of need. 

For example, if you are struggling with suicide and you talk to your counselor about it once it is ok, but if you need to do it again you will have to obtain a parental consent form. You as a student will have to wait 31 days before being able to properly communicate your needs and feelings to a guidance counselor if parental consent is not given before that. If this new law is in place those that are suffering from the effects of mental health might have to wait awhile, especially if the struggles are from their home life. Not everyone can wait another month in pain and silence with no signs of relief.

Another frustrating aspect of this bill is that it takes away some of the legal protection that public schools and libraries could get when patrons or parents try to challenge or ban books. This includes books that are being taught in class or books that are on the shelves of the library. Librarians are being accused of sharing harmful materials with minors, and in the worst case scenario could be charged with a felony. 

At first you might think, ok but how does that really affect me as a student? At first glance this doesn’t seem to be a problem, but we live in a world where people are constantly opposing one another. We all have different views, ideals, morals, and values. Almost every book in a library is opposed by one person or another. It is bound to happen in our political climate. DCHS librarian Mrs. Tonsoni finds this bill extremely disheartening, but the impact this bill has on the library saddens her the most. Mrs. Tonsoni stated, “It is my goal to fill our library with books that not only enrich and support the curriculum, but that also support the emotional and recreational needs of our students as well.” This is done by having a diverse collection of books available to the students. Mrs. T also stated, “ Are there books in the library that some people may find offensive? Yes, and I am proud of that.”

All it would take with this bill is a few too many opposing parents and differing views before our access to differing opinions and new ideas is taken away, one book at a time. The library is a place for us students to escape, learn something new, see some else’s ideas, and learn their story. A great quote to some this up is, “a good library has something in it to offend everyone.” The bills in the legislature are creating an easier path toward censorship. The knowledge and stories found in books have always been free for us to find, and that is how it should remain.

Our voices can still be heard. It is not too late. If you have strong feelings on this subject I implore you to say something. Take a stand. If you would like to learn more about HB 1134 click on the link below. This bill will be affecting our teachers the most, although the students will be affected too and we have a say. Be informed, write a letter, and take a stand in what you believe in.