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

INDIANA — A billthat would have allowed school officials to punish students for off-campusspeech will instead create a commission to study the issue — but only if theamendment can pass through the Indiana Senate.

House Bill 1169 was intended to address cyberbullying andtechnology-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 HighSchool Press Association.

At a Senate committee meeting Wednesday, the bill wasamended and then passed unanimously. The amendment strikes all of the originalbill 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 statesuperintendent, a member of the governing body of a school corporation, asuperintendent of a school corporation, a public school principal, a publicschool teacher and a parent of a public school student.

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

“A lot of bills have people testify against them, and theypass anyways,” Hadley said. “People came to testify concerns, and thoseconcerns were definitely considered. So (the legislature isn’t) moving forwarduntil 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 stateHouse would need to accept the amended version.