FILE - classroom scene

(The Center Square) – A bill before the Indiana General Assembly would require public school curricular materials be posted to a school’s website and require school boards appoint advisory committees comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and members of the community to make recommendations on curriculum.

It would also forbid schools from teaching in a way that increases divisions among students based on sex, race or ethnicity, and make it a criminal offense for school libraries to disseminate sexually explicit material to minors.

At an all-day hearing at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday, dozens of parents thanked legislators for bringing forth the bill, with many saying it should go even further to take politics out of public school classrooms in the state.

“I’m happy to see you’re standing with the parents, the grandparents and the community members that want their schools to return to academic excellence,” said Cindy Black, a mother and grandmother who lives in Carmel.

The bill was authored by Sen. Scott Baldwin, R- Noblesville, with the chairman of the education committee, Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond, and Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, listed as co-sponsors.

Several parents testified language in the bill should be changed so advisory committees don’t only reflect the view of the majority of school board members but reflect the views of all members elected to a school board in a given community.

The bill also would forbid schools from requiring students take surveys or do evaluations that reveal or attempt to affect their “attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings” and says schools must have prior consent from parents before any such survey can be circulated in schools.

While the bill does not mention Critical Race Theory, it says schools and school corporations “shall not” compel teachers and other school employees to adopt a position that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation is inherently superior or inferior to another sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation.”

It also removes schools and some public libraries from the list of entities eligible for a specified defense from criminal prosecution for providing harmful materials to minors or sponsoring performances harmful to minors and adds colleges and universities to this list.

Baldwin said the bill was aimed at people who “knowingly and intentionally” provide harmful materials to children.

“All we’re doing is removing an exemption,” he said.

The change, he said, would remove the distinction between handing a child a pornographic magazine on a street corner, and doing the same inside a school building – making both a Level 6 felony.

Parents testifying Wednesday described a variety of issues they found troubling, including teaching that showed disdain for America, political posters in schools and

students asked to take frequent surveys without parents’ knowledge, with the information collected by an outside company with principals sometimes unaware of how that information is being used.

Teachers who testified claimed having to submit all curricular material to be used in the classroom would be burdensome and time-consuming, while others said the bill language restricted them unreasonably.

"I have 75 things next week alone that would have to be looked at and investigated by the committee based on the definitions in this bill," one teacher said.

Rhonda Miller, the head of Purple for Parents Indiana, testified the organization is disappointed with the bill and wants the provision on obscene material in school libraries to be split out and made a separate bill.

“Parents deserve an up-or-down vote on obscenity,” she told senators.

She also said the bill doesn’t go far enough to advocate for parents.

“I can tell you parents are incredibly frustrated with how they’re being treated by their school boards,” she said, adding that there seemed to be no way to hold what she termed as radical teachers accountable, saying “the cultural shift within our schools is unacceptable.”