STTP educators fight to teach the truth: Why an Indiana bill may force teachers out of the classroom

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth to Power educators are on the front lines of a battle in Indiana working to stop the passage of legislation aimed at limiting the ability to teach the truth.

Civil rights and faith leaders have deemed the proposed measure, HB1134, both toxic and racist. It would stop educators from teaching topics that may cause students to feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, responsibility, or any form of psychological distress,” and all materials would need to be vetted by a curriculum review committee. Parents would be allowed to have their students opt out of lessons with which they are uncomfortable.

STTP lead educator Michelle Haddix, who teaches American history at Indianapolis Classical Schools, has been among those calling members of Congress and of the Indiana General Assembly to warn them of the dangers of the proposed legislation. Haddix also described efforts by colleagues at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ School of Education, where she is an admission counselor, to mobilize others.

“As one of my favorite local educators, Chloe Woodard, put it bluntly, this is the most embarrassing display of fascism we have seen at the Indiana State House,” Haddix said, adding that the legislation “is coming at a time when our best educators are stretched to their limits.”

In recent years, Haddix has worked with her students to develop the school’s first Black Cultural Union, a safe harbor where students of all nationalities can speak freely and openly about what it means to be Black in a predominantly white school. Haddix fears the legislation, which supporters argue would give parents more control over their children’s curriculum, would hinder such an environment of safety and free speech.

“For years, politicians and nonprofits disguised as humanitarians have had a death grip on traditional public schools,” she said. “Passing this legislation will destroy what spirit is remaining in our public school system and will most certainly force teacher activists out of the classroom permanently.”

The legislation passed in the Indiana House January 26 and awaits a vote in the Senate.