The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a public-school teacher, claiming that House Enrolled Act 1608 (HEA 1608), a law that prohibits “instruction” on “human sexuality” in grades K-3, infringes her constitutional rights.  

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kayla Smiley, a public-school teacher within the Indianapolis Public School system. The lawsuit claims that, in addition to First Amendment violations, HEA 1608 is overly broad, as neither “instruction” nor “human sexuality” is defined. According to the complaint, the plaintiff is unable to determine how to conform her behavior to the law so as to not risk losing her license. 

“HEA 1608 is written so broadly that it would be next to impossible for teachers to determine what they can and cannot say to students,” said Ken Falk, ACLU of Indiana legal director. “In addition, teachers have a First Amendment right to express themselves as private citizens outside of the classroom, including in the school’s hallways, playground, or before and after school, but the vagueness of this law would certainly have a chilling effect on those rights.” 

According to the complaint, Kayla Smiley maintains a classroom library that contains age-appropriate books across a diverse spectrum of subjects and concerns, including LGBTQ issues, such as biographies of Harvey Milk, and Elton John. Under the new law, it is completely unclear to teachers whether or not books such as these qualify as “instruction . . . on human sexuality” or whether or not they can discuss any topics regarding same-sex relationships. 

“This session, legislators were determined to target LGBTQ community members and to censor conversation about the LGBTQ community in schools, HEA 1608 was no exception,” said Katie Blair, ACLU of Indiana advocacy director. “This bill, like others across the country, was modeled after Florida’s infamous Don’t Say Gay law. LGBTQ students exist at all ages and in all grade levels and their stories belong in Indiana schools.”