Students just want to be heard


If Indiana students had their way, they would seek a seat at the table with state legislators to discuss what needs to be done to improve education. And it’s a safe bet House Bill 1134 would be a hot topic.

“I think our state legislature should protect students’ best interests,” junior Zoe Harris said. “I disagree with lawmakers banning discussion topics and censoring students. It limits self-expression, which is a very important part of school.”

The Spotlight and Keyhole staffs shared their thoughts on the controversial House Bill 1134 that is currently making its way through the state senate. The intent of the bill is to give parents more say in their child’s education while limiting some of what teachers are allowed to teach.

“It’s important to learn about bad things that happened in the past (ex. Holocaust) so we know the damage that happened and do our best not to let that happen again,” junior Nassima Hamadou said.

Students were polled on what they think of House Bill 1134 and what suggestions they have to improve education. These are students who have spent the past 18 months trying to navigate high school through a global pandemic. 

At the top of their list of concerns was mental health.

“The education system cares more about whether we’re getting our work turned in on time, instead of if we’re mentally okay with ourselves,” junior Grace Holler said.

Her opinion was shared by others.

“These kids don’t know how to come forward with these problems because they don’t know how to deal with these emotions and think that what they are feeling is not okay,” sophomore Hannah Thorpe said of the current mental state of her and her peers.

All students polled said they were aware of House Bill 1134, but what they really wanted was a seat at the table, a chance to have their voices heard. After all, education is supposed to be about the children.

“I think the legislation needs to put students first,” senior Mary Adams said. “We need the basics, like funding. We need legislation to protect us, our education, and our teachers. Right now it seems like they’re doing the opposite. I think they need to realize that students are actual people with actual feelings, and not knowing what will happen with our education is scary.”

Most just want to be taught the truth

“We’re barely taught about how cruel white men and women were to any person of color,” Holler said. “We’re only taught how African Americans didn’t have the same rights, but there’s more to that, that we aren’t being taught.”

“There’s so much I don’t know about the community, and I bet others don’t have that much either. This is the stuff we should be learning about,” junior Raelynn Hughes said. 

Junior Jalen Flowers had some strong opinions on the current state of education.

“If I could change one thing about our current education system, I would widen the array of things that are discussed in class,” he said. “Schools are becoming more diverse and so are the opinions that can be present in the classroom. Everyone can benefit from hearing others opinions and viewpoints.

“I believe teachers should be the first ones consulted when a bill like House Bill 1134 is being discussed. I think teachers deserve to be in control of what they teach and the way they teach.”

 While admitting that state government needs to have a role in public education, most students feel that role should only be from a financial standpoint.

“I think the court’s role in public education should be allowing teachers to express their opinions as well, and being in basically full control of their classroom,” Flowers said. “Allowing teachers to express their opinions would let the students get a different perspective of the topic.”

“State legislators should have a say in education, but it shouldn’t be what they’re doing now,” senior Lexi Bordenkecher said. “The changes that they’re trying to make in racial curriculum is wrong, and they’re trying to erase essential parts of history.”

Bordenkecher is one of the top students academically in the Class of 2022. She was raised in Wayne Township and values the education she has received.

“I think that public education needs to become more inclusive of all kinds of history, not just white history,” she said. “We should be learning more about black history, Native American history, and LGBT history. We also need to increase safety in schools. Violence has gotten out of hand in public schools, and it needs to be reformed.”

Students do care about their education and what they learn in the classroom. But they want what they learn not to just be represented on a piece of paper.

“Us as students are required to take quizzes and tests weekly, trying to prove what we’ve learned in class that week,” Holler siad. “Some students just don’t do well on tests, but they do on everything else.

“We’re required to take assessments and to do well on them, but that shouldn’t be how we’re required to learn or show what we’ve learned. Our grades shouldn’t reflect who we are as students.”