You’ll never experience such a profound mixture of astonishment and disappointment until you observe hundreds of protesters converge on a statehouse to vehemently protest legislation they haven’t read.
Indiana state lawmakers on Monday advanced a two-page bill that, similar to a new Florida law, would ban schools from incorporating lessons or themes with sexual content in kindergarten through third grade classrooms.
To the surprise of some, the entire Indiana House passed the bill Thursday afternoon by a vote of 65-29. The measure now moves to the Republican-controlled state Senate.
The ban proposed in Indiana’s HB 1608 includes classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual expression—which has become a popular progressive inclusion in classrooms over the past five years.
Grades K-3 typically include children ages 5 through 8, and those same grades are covered by Florida’s similar ban, the Parental Rights in Education Act, passed last year.
Many K-3 teachers and counselors across America have recorded strange videos in which they express their excitement about sharing details on gay and lesbian relationships, transgender expression, and encouraging alternative sexual identities with minors.
Prompted by concerned parents and teachers, over a dozen states in addition to Florida have suggested legislation forbidding sexual instruction in K-3 classrooms. In response, progressive activists and media outlets labeled such policies as “Don’t Say Gay” measures—fearmongering by misrepresenting the legislation as forbidding gay, lesbian, or transgender teachers or students from teaching or learning in a public school.
The Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Indiana Democrats called for a mass protest during a committee hearing Monday on the bill, HB 1608. Hundreds of LGBTQ+ advocates arrived at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, chanting messages such as “We say gay!” and “Shame on you!” and “Shut it down!”
Although Indiana’s legislation said (and still says) nothing about anyone saying “gay” or banning the mention of any monogamous relationship, both the advocates and Democrat members of the House Education Committee persisted as if it did.
Before public testimony on HB 1608 began, Education Chairman Robert Behning (R-Marion County) brought forward an amendment proposed by state Rep. Jake Teshka (R-South Bend) that would require schools to seek written parental approval in the event a student desired to formally change his or her name and pronouns.
Additionally, under Teshka’s amendment, school staff could not be compelled to call any student a specific name or pronouns.
The Education Committee approved the amendment along party lines, 9-4.
I then had the distinct pleasure of watching Democrat members of the Indiana House—some of whom claim to have immense classroom and policy experience—ask questions that were answered by explicit language in a two-page bill they’d failed to read.
State Reps. Vernon Smith (D-Gary), Edward DeLaney (D-Indianapolis), and Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute) asked some of the most bewilderingly ignorant questions I’ve ever heard in any hearing by an education committee.
DeLaney began by asking Teshka if, under Teshka’s amendment, students would be allowed to call each other by different names if they wished.
Teshka sighed and quoted the exact text of the amendment: It forbids only “staff employed by the [school] district” to use different names or pronouns without parental approval.
DeLaney muttered something unintelligible under his breath and Pfaff began her question.
Saying that she, as a teacher, had vast experience in the classroom, Pfaff asked what would occur if a male student indicated that he didn’t want his parents to know about his desire to be a girl because he feared being abused by them.
Teshka cited the exact language from the Indiana code regarding mandatory reporting—in which every adult at the first sign of possible or anticipated abuse is to report such concerns immediately to the Department of Child Services. He noted that students often are concerned about how their parents might respond to specific situations—a bad grade, for instance.
“This does not give any teacher or staff member the right to keep secrets with a student from his or her parents,” Teshka said.
Smith then proposed a hypothetical situation in which a teacher overhears students calling another student by a different name or pronouns. Would the teacher be required to report this observation to parents?
Teshka calmly responded that his amendment only would address official requests by a student to a staff member—and says nothing about other students.
DeLaney ended this strange series of illiterate questions by voicing an objection to the legislation’s provision of protection from compelled speech. The Democrat claimed that teachers should be required to address a child with whatever terminology the child wished.
“Your rights stop where mine begin. … If I had one right on this planet, it was to decide what name I’m called by,” DeLaney said.
At this point, someone stood up in the gallery and began screaming, “It’s just a [expletive] name,” among other angry comments. Behning, as chairman, asked officers to remove the person making the disturbance:
Smith added that the bill would allow teachers to call students “anything they want,” such as “Fatso” or “Skinny Kid,” although the legislation says nothing of the sort.
“Freedom of speech ought to be limited, especially in the education system,” Smith said.
DeLaney claimed that he “never believed that the First Amendment applies to indecent behavior.”
“We have to be concerned with every child, not just …, ” he continued, trailing off into unintelligible mumbles again.
A separate amendment put forward by DeLaney would exempt private, charter, and other non-public schools from HB 1608’s bans. The Democrat lawmaker insisted that he submitted the amendment as a joke to “expose the hypocrisy” of school choice.
Humorously, the Education Committee voted to approve DeLaney’s amendment, which he voted against—and protested his not being allowed to reverse adding the amendment.
Smith complained that this was a grave insult. Someone else stood up to scream in the gallery and also was thrown out.
Speakers’ testimony largely was much the same: Advocate after advocate took turns accusing, pleading, crying, blubbering, and screaming that this bill would do everything from causing mass-child abuse to erasing gay and “trans” people from existence.
After giving my own testimony and listening to the remaining 42 speakers, I am convinced that none of the 33 who testified against the bill had read it prior to showing up that morning.
After the ACLU, the Indiana State Teachers Association, and dozens of activists had testified—asserting this bill was a grave evil of fascism, homophobia, transphobia, and an exhaustive list of other “-isms” and phobias, the Education Committee advanced HB 1608 with another party-line vote of 9-4.
As the bill moves to the House floor, I can’t help but appreciate the two core lessons learned Monday at the Indiana Statehouse.
First, I don’t believe progressives read education bills anymore. Political advocacy and “social justice” organizations craft their own interpretations and fantasies about legislation before gaslighting thousands who are too apathetic or willingly ignorant to read the bill for themselves. The result is a deeper cultural divide in which entire groups resolutely deny that sexual education and gender identity might not belong in third grade classrooms.
Second, Indiana Republicans as a group finally appear to be tossing aside their trust in organizations such as the ACLU and the state teachers union. Monday’s hearing did not feature a series of competent arguments against HB 1608. Instead, the Democrat opposition consisted of screaming, wild, incoherent activists and elected officials who were incapable of reading a two-page bill.
Just one year ago, Indiana’s supermajority in the House and Senate were watering down countless bills at the request of teachers unions and progressive advocacy groups—much to the dismay of many parents and teachers.
It has been an encouragement to see Republican members of the Indiana House Education Committee calmly stare down the petulant screams of unreasonable advocates to advance legislation benefiting Hoosier families.
It is more encouraging to see the Indiana House pass it just a few days later.
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