Rather than allow students the freedom to learn about and engage with diverse ideas, Indiana legislators want to censor any school discussions that they personally disagree with. And let’s be blunt, they are targeting conversations about the LGBTQ community.
As we have seen across the country, when books are censored, it is mostly books by and about LGBTQ people, people of color, and other marginalized groups that are the first to be banned.
With SB 12, state lawmakers are seeking to open school librarians and teachers up to felony prosecution for having any material that a parent might deem “harmful to minors” — a vague term that has historically been used to ban books related to LGBTQ topics and sex education.
Out of fear of frivolous prosecution, school librarians and teachers may find themselves in a position where they have no choice but to remove literary classics like Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby, and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, or any material with a single line that could be considered offensive or controversial.
Just because one person does not want their child to read a book does not give them the right to ban that book for everyone’s children. Schools should be a thriving ground for freedom of speech and freedom of thought. They should not be turned into a space of control to support a political agenda.
This bill would have a chilling effect on the availability of books for students to read and explore.
Censorship is un-American, yet SB 12 isn’t even the only censorship bill Indiana legislators are pushing forward.
Don't Say Gay
HB 1608, inspired by Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, would effectively ban discussion or even acknowledgement of LGBTQ people in schools, grades K-3.
HB 1608 would silence students from speaking about their LGBTQ family members, friends, neighbors, and icons. It would also bar LGBTQ students from talking about their own lives, experiences, and families, and would deny their very existence. The bill could even be used to ban LGBTQ teachers from simply mentioning or having a picture of their spouse in their classroom.
This bill stigmatizes LGBTQ people, isolates LGBTQ kids, and makes teachers fearful of providing a welcoming and inclusive classroom. It would have a real and devastating impact on LGBTQ youth, who already experience higher rates of bullying and suicide. HB 1608 sends a dangerous message to these already vulnerable youth that they and their stories are worth less than their peers.
Indiana schools should be safe spaces for all students and teachers, not places where their very existence is rejected and erased.
To make matters worse, HB 1608 was also amended to force schools to “out” transgender students without their consent, despite the potentially dangerous consequences these students could face at both home and school.
A recent poll conducted by the Indiana Department of Education showed that 93% of Hoosier parents know and approve of the subject material taught in their child’s school. So why are our legislators focused on banning books and censoring classroom discussions?
The same politicians claiming these types of bills are about “parental rights” are the same lawmakers supporting legislation taking away parents' rights to make decisions about essential medical care for their trans kids. It’s clear that the Indiana legislature’s Slate of Hate is about anti-LGBTQ discrimination — not parental rights.
Some lawmakers are also claiming that HB 1608 is about banning the teaching of sex education — but HB 1608 does not explicitly name sex ed. Instead, it bans discussing "human sexuality," a broad, undefined term, meant to erase conversations about LGBTQ Hoosiers.
SB 12 was introduced under the fabrication that school libraries are distributing “pornography” to children — a claim that even the bill’s author could not back up with evidence.
Hoosiers see these bills for exactly what they are: blatant attempts by lawmakers to ban books and erase LGBTQ Hoosiers.
LGBTQ people have always existed in Indiana. We can’t allow their stories and identities to be erased.
Both SB 12 and HB 1608 raise serious First Amendment concerns and, if passed, will almost certainly be used to silence protected speech. These bills do nothing to help students learn and grow — they only seek to advance political agendas at the expense of harming vulnerable youth and chilling academic freedom.
The ACLU of Indiana will continue to fight to stop both SB 12 and HB 1608.
At a time of escalating political attacks on LGBTQ youth in Indiana across the nation, we need access to more education, not less.