Amendment turns Ind. off-campus speech bill into a study commission

Vote by full Senate still to come

INDIANA — A bill that would have allowed school officials to punish students for off-campus speech will instead create a commission to study the issue — but only if the amendment can pass through the Indiana Senate.

House Bill 1169 was intended to address cyberbullying and technology-assisted cheating, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, in an earlier interview.

It drew criticism from student rights advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the Indiana High School Press Association.

At a Senate committee meeting Wednesday, the bill was amended and then passed unanimously. The amendment strikes all of the original bill and creates a commission to study “best practices for student discipline.”

The commission would be made up of 14 appointed members: four state representatives, four senators, a representative for the state superintendent, a member of the governing body of a school corporation, a superintendent of a school corporation, a public school principal, a public school teacher and a parent of a public school student.

Diana Hadley, executive director of IHSPA, testified against the bill last week and was present today. She said she was very pleased with the decision.

“A lot of bills have people testify against them, and they pass anyways,” Hadley said. “People came to testify concerns, and those concerns were definitely considered. So (the legislature isn’t) moving forward until they’ve thought this over.”

Koch did not return calls for comment by press time.

The bill now moves to the full Senate. If passed, the state House would need to accept the amended version.

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