Letter to the editor: Writer responds to Superintendent Niedermeyer
The legislative session in Indiana opened with several bills intended to address parents’ concerns about objectionable content found in Indiana’s public school classrooms. I’m referring specifically to Senate Bill 167, House Bill 1134, and House Bill 1040.
Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer, who recently announced that she would retire at the end of this school year, posted an announcement on Noblesville School’s website listing her concerns about these bills. Unfortunately, Dr. Niedermeyer forgot to provide evidence that would corroborate her concerns. Her absence of due diligence risks leaving parents and the community with nothing more than her opinion about important issues facing our students. Opinions are fine, but if Superintendent Niedermeyer uses a publicly funded platform, presumably on public time, to opine on legislative matters, she should at least educate herself on the issues she is offering comments.
Dr. Niedermeyer writes in her opinion piece, “As currently written, the legislation would:
Prohibit teaching accurate historical facts, both in K-12 education and to adults at the college level.
Prohibit teaching general sociology concepts, both in K-12 education and to adults at the college level.
Threaten to criminalize teachers, driving educators out of a profession that is already undervalued and in the midst of a desperate shortage.
Redirect time and money away from student academics to manage increased government bureaucracy.”
There is nothing in these bills that will prohibit teaching accurate history. The Superintendent is either misinformed or intentionally misrepresenting the legislation. It is inappropriate behavior coming from a public school administrator in either case. One can only speculate why Dr. Niedermeyer thinks these bills will prevent teaching accurate historical facts because she failed to explain her reasoning. With this in mind, one of the arguments made by opponents of these bills is that teachers won’t be able to teach historical facts about slavery in America. However, when you read the actual text of the legislation, that argument falls apart.
Dr. Niedermeyer claims that these bills will prohibit teaching sociology concepts. Which sociology concepts is she afraid will be banned? We don’t know. Perhaps she is concerned academic theories that argue white people are inherently racist will be prohibited?
Superintendent Niedermeyer claims that these bills threaten to criminalize teachers, driving educators out of a profession that is already undervalued and in the midst of a desperate shortage. First of all, I know of no other single sector of public expenditure that receives more state funding than public education. If we measure value in dollars allocated, it is hard to make an intellectually honest argument that public education is undervalued. It’s worth noting that Dr. Niedermeyer has a compensation plan that features a $200,000 annual salary plus benefits. That’s quite a bit more than the average teacher’s annual salary of approximately $54,000. Secondly, there is nothing in these bills that will unfairly criminalize teachers. Teachers who don’t break the law aren’t criminals and should not worry. It’s pretty simple.
Furthermore, I’m told on good authority that SB 167 and HB 1134 give teachers a level of immunity, sort of like police officers, and puts the risk on the school district. It provides teachers criminal immunity, but it also gives them civil immunity. If teachers break the law, they can certainly lose their license, but this idea that teachers risk being criminalized is a fabrication. Dr. Niedermeyer’s irresponsible comments have most certainly caused unnecessary fear and loathing which, as a result, will likely do more harm to the profession than any of these bills.
Dr. Niedermeyer claims that these bills will redirect time and money away from student academics to manage increased government bureaucracy. I’m glad that she is concerned about increased government bureaucracy taking time and money away from academics. That is a fascinating statement since test scores have dropped every year since Dr. Niedermeyer became Superintendent of Noblesville Schools. One might argue that all the time and money invested in social-emotional learning and DEI initiatives distract from academics.