Indiana AG’s “Parents Bill of Rights” document sparks criticism

A document penned this week by the Indiana Attorney General called “Parents Bill of Rights” has caused a stir among parents and political parties alike, partially taking aim at topics of critical race theory and social emotional learning in schools.

During the document’s Wednesday release, Attorney General Todd Rokita opined that Hoosier parents should have a say in their children receiving “a proper and accurate understanding” of America’s history and governmental institutions “consistent with state and federal law.”

Rokita’s 17-page “Parents Bill of Rights” encourages parent participation with school boards by using the document for civic dialogue, which includes ways for parents to review curriculum and state standards. The document also lists out the various rights parents have when it comes to their children’s education.

A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education said it was not involved in crafting the document.

A significant portion of the “Parents Bill of Rights” question and answer section offers criticism on both critical race theory (CRT) and social emotional learning (SEL) in schools. CRT is a concept that examines systemic racism as a part of American life and institutions, while SEL helps kids work on things like coping with feelings, controlling emotions and setting goals.

The document calls teachings on CRT “deeply flawed and controversial” and argues that its principles are “not rooted in American history or deep historical fact.”

It also portrays school initiatives regarding diversity, inclusion, CRT and SEL as being “utilized as a means of introducing distorted theories and activities aimed at making students feel bad about themselves.”

“The Office of the Indiana Attorney General recognizes how the current national discourse regarding political and social issues has created negative and polarizing effects on teachers, administrators, students, and families,” the AG said in a statement. “Ideologies founded on divisive teachings and narrow interpretations of U.S. history run contrary to established Indiana educational requirements.”

The Indiana Parent Teacher Association said in a statement to Indiana Lawyer that while it does not have a position on CRT as a specific methodology, it does encourage the implementation of diverse and inclusive curricula in K-12 public schools nationwide.

“Culturally and linguistically responsive teaching and learning, and inclusive curricula are imperative in building socially competent and aware children and youth, enhancing their intellectual capability and psychosocial well-being,” said the IPTA. “This includes recognizing racism, classism, and other issues in the world and developing a student’s awareness to openly address these situations.”

The “Parents Bill of Rights” document release quickly drew concern and criticism from Indiana Senate Democrats, who argue the “Parents Bill of Rights” has no legal standing and hinders efforts to bring a more diverse education Hoosier students.

In a joint statement released by the Senate Democrats, Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, said the “Parents Bill of Rights” is a misuse of the AG’s time and state office.

“Instead, he should let our very qualified teachers, school administrators and parents lead these conversations outside of a political arena. That is what is best for our children, and that is how Indiana can provide our children the best education possible,” Yoder said.

Longtime Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-Gary, said he finds it “extremely concerning” that the Indiana AG’s office is offering advice about which parts of American history should and should not be taught in Indiana schools.

“Our school administrators, parents and teachers are more than capable of having the necessary discussions to make decisions concerning the curriculum for our students,” said Randolph. “There is a process in place for school curriculum approval, and I trust that our educators are working hard, as always, to accurately educate our students about our nation’s history.”

Drew Anderson, a spokesperson for the Indiana Democratic Party, also spoke out against the document, calling itan attempt to garner attention” that “fails to deliver any tangible results for today’s most-pressing issues, and holds Indiana and its families back from future success.”

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