State portal raises privacy concerns, creates tip line for 'controversial' classroom materials
A controversial state program would allow teachers, parents and students to submit “examples” of race, gender and political ideology being taught in schools throughout the state.
The Eyes on Education platform allows all Hoosiers to view the examples of photos, screenshots and presentation materials from districts and universities across the state that the office describes as “potentially inappropriate.”
Office of the Attorney General calls tool “transparency portal”
In a press release, Attorney General Todd Rokita said the portal is intended to “empower” parents and give them the ability to “submit and view potentially inappropriate materials in their schools.”
The website allows for submissions from public K-12 school districts, colleges, universities and “other affiliated academic entities” in Indiana. It currently contains documents and complaints from 13 public K-12 school districts and Indiana University’s School of Medicine.
Rokita said these examples will allow students and parents to both submit and view “socialist indoctrination” from classrooms around the state. He also said this will help students focus on “building blocks” rather than “ideology that divides kids from their parents and normal society.”
The Office of the Attorney General said it will investigate materials and complaints submitted to the portal.
Rokita said he believes this will also be a place where teachers can submit “examples of materials they find objectionable” to further empower educators. However, many school districts and teachers organizations have already expressed concerns with the portal.
Various school districts and corporations find portal “outdated and hostile”
Several examples of classroom material and curricula are posted online, including a survey about student’s political beliefs, a Black Lives Matter gay pride flag, and a gender support plan that includes privacy and confidentiality policies for transgender students.
These documents outraged many school corporations and districts, who said these documents were either outdated or incorrect.
Rick Hightower is the communications director of the Clark-Pleasant Community School Corporation. In an email to the attorney general’s office, he said the gender support plan featured under the school corporation’s section on the portal is a policy that is “outdated and retired.”
He said he is “disappointed” no one at the attorney general’s office verified this information and asked for the office to “confirm receipt of this email and confirm that this error has been corrected.”
Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 765-275-1120. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.
Marnie Cooke is the executive director of communications with Noblesville Schools. In an email, she said the district was “not aware of the site prior to its launch” and was not given “an opportunity to discuss it with the AG’s office.”
Documents shared about Noblesville schools included a volunteer speaker from 2018, who Cooke said the school had “not properly vetted” prior to the presentation and that the district “apologized to families at the time.”
She said the other two documents shared included an English class assignment detailing the “meaning of privilege.” Cooke said the staff member who proposed this assignment is no longer with Noblesville schools. Cooke said a third item, which the office labeled as “critical race theory,” is currently “not in use” at schools.
Emily Bauer is the director of community relations with Carmel Clay Schools. She said the tool is “irresponsible” and said Carmel Clay Schools were not notified about the AG’s new website or asked to confirm the validity of these materials.
She said the materials placed under Carmel Clay Schools include documents that originated from a “now-defunct outside special interest group” and “multiple online quizzes with no additional context provided.”
“While the state is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage, we hope all governing agencies will continue to support the teaching profession and create a positive and welcoming environment for current and future Indiana educators,” Bauer said in a statement.
The Indiana State Teachers Association said in a statement the website “targets” public schools and is a “transparent attempt to create division among parents and educators.” The association called for the immediate removal of the site in a press release.
The website currently allows anyone to submit a complaint through an “education transparency form,” which asks those submitting to give their name, contact information, school name and associated documents.