Indiana bill aims to prevent schools from discriminating against staff, students

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– There’s a new push to prevent schools from discriminating against students and staff.

Democratic State Senator J.D. Ford filed a bill on Friday that specifically applies to schools participating in the state’s voucher program.

According to SB 250, a Choice Scholarship School may not discriminate against a staff member or student based on a number of things, including gender identity, marital status or sexual orientation.

If the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) determines the school discriminated against a staff member, the school would become ineligible the next year for the scholarship program.

The current state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Jennifer McCormick, supports the proposal.

“We should be respecting, accepting and treating others with a great deal of love and acceptance,” McCormick said.

Ford tried to push this idea last year and the bill did not get a hearing. He hopes more experience will help him this session.

“My goal is to make our schools a place where we can foster learning and growth,” Ford said.

This effort comes after multiple employees at local schools lost their job over their same-sex marriage.

In 2018, controversy swirled around Roncalli High School. The school’s guidance counselor, Shelly Fitzgerald, lost her job because officials say she violated her contract. She is married to a woman.

That decision made by the Catholic school is some of the inspiration behind the bill.

“Hardworking teachers and counselors fired just because of who they are, who they love,” Ford said. “If a school receives public tax payer dollars, then it’s definitely in the general assembly’s purview and jurisdiction to make sure that your money is being spent well and fairly.”

During the 2018-2019 school year, Roncalli High School more than $1.7 million through the voucher program. Nearly 400 students at the school participated in the Choice Scholarship Program.

We did reach out to several Republican lawmakers to hear their opinion of this bill.

Those who responded did not want to comment and as of Friday evening, we are still waiting to hear back from others.

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