Teachers worry about safety and privacy of Attorney General Rokita's new parent portal

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita unveiled his office’s new “Eyes on Education” transparency portal on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. (Screenshot from X/Twitter video)

Attorney General Todd Rokita’s new “Eyes on Education” tip line for reporting “inappropriate” school material compromises teacher privacy and safety, a number of central Indiana teacher groups say.

Six teacher associations’ presidents, representing a total of around 4,200 teachers, have written a letter detailing concerns over the accuracy of documents posted. The letter, which they say they plan to send to Rokita, says the portal may put teachers at risk by providing a forum for posters to share teachers' personal information, such as their names and home addresses, in some of the documents uploaded to the new portal.

'Weaponizing a government website'

“The portal violates teachers' liberties by posting their names as an intentional act of doxing (sic), which could lead to teacher safety concerns,” the letter says. “Furthermore, the Attorney General is weaponizing a government website for his personal benefit. This further breeds misplaced mistrust in Indiana teachers, pitting teachers against the communities they willingly serve.”

The portal that Rokita unveiled last week allows anyone to submit documentation of “objectionable” school materials. Rokita’s office says it will verify the information before posting for public viewing. Rokita’s office then may investigate cases further.

The portal’s website does not specify what is deemed “objectionable curricular, policies or programs affecting children” but says that education should focus on fundamentals, “not political ideology – either left or right.”

More about the tip line here:Without telling IDOE, Todd Rokita launches portal to report inappropriate school materials

Multiple school districts told IndyStar that Rokita’s office did not contact them before launching the portal nor did the office ask the districts to confirm the validity of submitted documentation.

In the week since the portal went live, Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, said he has seen many posts about materials that are no longer in use and posts made public without needed context.

“Everything was extremely outdated,” Gambill told IndyStar. “There was no context to what was posted, there was no response from the districts, so there was nothing to clarify in any way what someone was looking at.”

'My mental health is worth more than this'

Some of the documentation on the portal lists teachers' and other school employees’ names along with their districts.

One Hamilton Southeastern teacher quit this week because of the portal, said Abby Taylor, president of the HSE Teachers' Association.

“They told me ‘I don’t feel supported by our community and that my mental health is worth more than this,’” Taylor said.

The letter calls on Governor Eric Holcomb and the Indiana General Assembly to denounce the portal and take it down.

A spokesperson from Rokita's office told IndyStar on Wednesday that the majority of materials submitted so far have come from teachers and other school employees, making verification easy.

His office also said they do not plan to remove or change anything already posted to the portal.

"Even if a lesson plan or policy has changed, it’s important for parents to see what the adults in their child's school are capable of," the statement said. "Transparency is a good thing. And parents engaging in the upbringing of their children should be what everyone wants, including schools, which are funded by taxpayer dollars."

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Leaders fear exacerbating teacher shortage

School leaders worry this portal will exacerbate teacher shortages, Gambill said.

“Things like this, are why we have and will continue to have a teacher shortage because people looking at entering the profession are going to look at this and say, I don't have to put up with this and they will just simply leave the classroom or they won't come in to begin with,” Gambill said.

Teachers have become increasingly worried in recent years that they might say the wrong thing in the classroom and how one incident could jeopardize their career, Taylor said.

“When teachers don’t feel safe, they aren’t doing their best job at educating those students and in the end those students are the ones that are losing out,” Taylor said.

Contact IndyStar reporter Caroline Beck at 317-618-5807 or CBeck@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineB_Indy.

Caroline’s reporting is made possible by Report for America and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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