Indiana lawmakers to discuss bill similar to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law Monday

Indiana House lawmakers mark the ceremonial start of session, Organization Day, on Nov. 22, 2022.
House lawmakers have scheduled a discussion on a bill that would ban lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade classrooms. (Aleksandra Appleton for Chalkbeat)

Indiana’s 2023 legislative session is under way, and state legislators have introduced more than 100 new education bills and bills impacting schools and students. For the latest Indiana education news, sign up for Chalkbeat Indiana’s free newsletter here.

Indiana House lawmakers are scheduled to hold their first discussion Monday of a bill that closely resembles a Florida law banning the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in early grades. 

The House Committee on Education will take up House Bill 1608 Monday at 8 a.m., per an agenda posted online.  

The two-page bill is one of several proposals from legislators this session that address how schools must handle controversial social issues involving race and sex. It prohibits school staff and contractors from teaching lessons that “study, explore, or inform students” about topics like gender roles, stereotypes, and identity, as well as sexual orientation, in kindergarten through third grade. 

It’s similar to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education statute that gained national attention last year as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Author Rep. Michelle Davis, a Whiteland Republican, previously described her bill in a statement as common-sense legislation.

“The goal of this bill is to empower Hoosier parents by reinforcing that they’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to introducing sensitive topics to their children,” Davis’ statement said. 

The education committee usually meets on Wednesdays, but lawmakers are facing a crunch to hear bills in committee before reading deadlines during the last week of February. 

Rep. Bob Behning, the GOP chairman of the education committee, did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the bill, or whether his committee will meet again on Wednesday. 

The ACLU of Indiana has called for a rally at the statehouse Monday morning to oppose the bill. 

“This bill sends a dangerous message to these already vulnerable youth that they are a threat to public discourse,” the organization said in a Thursday post

With deadlines to move legislation looming, Senate lawmakers this week also scheduled a discussion for this week about a bill that would ban certain topics on race and racism from the classroom.  

But the bill was unexpectedly pulled from Wednesday’s committee agenda shortly after a rally by groups who oppose such legislation.

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at aappleton@chalkbeat.org.

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