INDIANAPOLIS—A news conference by the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus Tuesday called for mandatory implicit bias and racism training for all legislators.
Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, said at the news conference that the caucus is pushing for repercussions after Black legislators were booed, jeered and confronted in the halls during the House session on Thursday.
“This is our call to action,” Shackleford said. “We believe to be silent in times like these is to do a disservice to those before us and after us.”
The controversy was caused by HB 1367, authored by Rep. Jake Teshka, R-South Bend, which would create a two-year pilot program for John Glenn School Corporation, which has a majority of White students, to disannex from South Bend Community School Corporation, which has a majority of non-White students.
The confrontations broke out on a day when Black caucus members were celebrating Black History Month by wearing traditional African garb. Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, and Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, recalled their experiences with racism and were booed by some legislators as others refused to listen.
Shackleford said she talked with House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, about the training but noted he is undecided about how best to proceed.
Rep. Smith, said HB 1367 is unnecessary because of laws already on the books.
“I refuse to be intimidated,” Smith said. “I didn’t mind the booing. I can see the booing in some of their faces when I’m speaking, all the time. What I was offended by is that one of my colleagues wanted to shut me up, and I think that I have a right to speak my opinions.”
Huston addressed the House during session on Monday, saying he expects legislators to be following the House Rules.
“I am committed today to increase focus on maintaining decorum, civility and professionalism in this institution that this body deserves and the people we serve deserve, both inside this chamber and outside of it,” Huston said during the House session on Monday.
The bill moved to the Senate after a 53-42 vote in which 14 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against it. It is sponsored by Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-La Porte, Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, and Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend.
The Black caucus plans to have call-to-action days for organizations to come to the Statehouse March 1-4 and March 8-11 to voice their concerns about discrimination and bills making their way through the Assembly.