‘Parents Bill of Rights’ targets critical race theory—and SEL

Indiana's Bill of Rights reaffirms parents' rights to review curriculum and question school officials
By: | June 25, 2021
Indiana’s “Parents Bill of Rights” says critical race theory discriminates against students based solely on their race.Indiana’s “Parents Bill of Rights” says critical race theory discriminates against students based solely on their race.

Calling critical race theory “deeply flawed,” Indiana’s attorney general has released a “Parents Bill of Rights” that also targets social-emotional learning in K-12 schools.

The new Parents Bill of Rights should serve as a guide for how parents and caregivers can be involved in what their children learn, Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement.

“As I’ve traveled throughout the state of Indiana, I’ve heard firsthand the concerns of parents who are deeply troubled by ideologies being imposed in their children’s school curriculum,” Rokita said. “The first line of defense is to hold school districts accountable lies with active and engaged parents.”

The document lays out how state learning standards and curriculum are established and updated, and when parental consent is required for students to participate in certain types of instruction. It also reaffirms parents’ and caregivers’ rights to review curriculum and question school officials and school board members at public meetings.

Critical race theory tracker: Where it’s been banned

But the Parents Bill of Rights also devotes substantial space to critical race theory (also known as CRT) and the New York Times 1619 Project on slavery, calling them “Marxist ideologies, seeking to abolish individual rights and redistribute wealth.”

“Like CRT, many related ideologies purport to teach diversity and inclusion but in reality, promote exclusionary tenets under the guise of euphemisms,” the document says. “CRT’s teachings have a discriminatory effect against students who are inappropriately defined as having ‘privilege’ or being ‘oppressors’ based solely on their race.”

The document also warns that social-emotional learning could be used as a back door to bring critical race theory into classrooms. “Indiana schools have witnessed an influx of SEL model practices utilized as a means of introducing distorted theories and activities aimed at making students feel bad about themselves,” the document says.

Stefan Lallinger, an adjunct lecturer for the School of Education at American University, says teaching does not discriminate against white students and that laws and policies banning CRT are not about the theory itself or preventing discrimination. “They are intended to send a message to teachers that we should not be teaching the truth about our nation’s past, particularly the parts that make us feel uncomfortable or ashamed because they reveal systemic racism by our own government and its citizens,” Lallinger says. “That is senseless—the only way we can improve as a country and a society is to have an honest reckoning of how we got here.”