Indiana teachers call attorney general’s ‘Eyes on Education’ portal dangerous | Indiana

A website launched by Indiana Republicans as a reporting tool for perceived indoctrination of public school students has instead become a nest of outdated and inaccurate information, educators say, driving a wedge between parents and teachers.

State attorney general Todd Rokita’s “Eyes on Education” portal, which he launched earlier this month independent of Indiana’s education department, also exceeds his remit, and exists purely for his own political gain, they say.

Now, an alliance of teachers’ unions is demanding Rokita take the website down. The group is calling it a “dangerous” attack on public educators that advances a conservative culture war agenda against purported woke ideology, mostly over race and gender, which has already gained traction in other Republican-led states.

In a statement published to X, formerly Twitter, the groups take issue with documentation posted to the website that Rokita says are “real examples of socialist indoctrination from classrooms”, including photographs of a Pride flag, lesson plans, quizzes and other teaching materials, in some cases identifying by name the teachers behind them.

The educators say there is no evidence any of the material was ever generated or used in Indiana classrooms. They also emphasize that the website lacked any kind of vetting or submission process that could verify authenticity.

Additionally, they allege, many of the documents showcased are outdated or inaccurate, posted without the knowledge of, or input from the school districts from which they reportedly came.

In one example, the superintendent of the New Prairie united school system wrote to complain that a previous version of its gender support plan was posted in place of the current one, which had been updated to require parental notification when a transgender student sought accommodations.

In another, according to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, the Clark-Pleasant community school corporation said the website posted its policies about preferred pronouns and restroom use for transgender students that were no longer in use, which Rokita’s office could have easily confirmed in a phone call.

“This lack of transparency further pits communities against teachers and creates false narratives one can only assume the attorney general would use to further his own political ideology, the very thing this site claims to be combating,” the teachers groups said.

“With the ability of any person to upload documents unchecked, the portal is a farce, full of misinformation and a front for further attacks on an already depleted profession.”

Last year, the Indiana State Teachers Association said there were more than 1,500 vacant teaching posts, a number it expected to grow following “more than a decade of inadequate education funding and efforts to de-professionalize the education profession”.

A spokesperson for Rokita told the Guardian in a statement that “a vast majority” of material on the portal, currently about 30 documents, was supplied by teachers or other school employees, and insisted everything posted was accurate and “easily verified”.

“When attorney general Rokita announced Eyes on Education, he made it clear that every example will be vetted and responses from schools will be published,” the spokesperson said.

“Even if a lesson plan or policy has changed, it’s important for parents to see what the adults in their child’s school are capable of. Transparency is a good thing.”

But political opponents of Rokita insist transparency was never his goal.

“The rightwing national agenda is just now playing out in Indiana and the portal is an example of exactly that, putting teachers in harm’s way, affecting our kids’ educations, and all because someone wants to further their career,” said Josh Lowry, a Democrat running for a seat in the state’s general assembly.

“We’ve been under a Republican supermajority for over 15 years in this state and anything taught in our classrooms is, or should be, following a standard set by Republicans. I went to public school, I’ve adopted five children who go to public school, and never once has there been evidence I’ve seen of indoctrination.

“You can teach kids that something’s real without indoctrinating them. If you teach about Amelia Earhart, you’re not indoctrinating them to become a pilot.”

Efforts by Republicans in other states to employ similar reporting tools for parents concerned about their children’s education have ended badly. In 2022, Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin’s tip-line designed to expose “inherently divisive practices” in schools was quietly dropped after a poor response and defeat for his administration in a public records lawsuit from media organizations.

In Arizona last year, teachers rallied against the state’s much-derided “empower hotline” created to capture reports of “inappropriate” school content, particularly concerning race and ethnicity, gender ideology and social emotional learning.

The Arizona Mirror reported that in its first three months, the hotline received an unspecified handful of genuine complaints, only four of which led to investigations, and about 30,000 prank calls and emails.

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