Indiana’s House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill that would require all welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, despite the fact that several courts have ruled such measures areunconstitutional. Public assistance would be denied to any applicant who refused to undergo rehabilitation treatment.
The bill would require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) who tests positive for illegal substances to pay for their own drug tests out of their assistance checks. It would also force anyone with drugs in their system to enroll in a treatment program, but the bill offers no additional funding for such programs:
If the individual tests positive on a drug test administered under this chapter, the amount of the cost of any subsequent drug test the individual is required to undergo will be withheld from the TANF assistance the individual receives, if the individual continues to receive TANF assistance, regardless of whether the individual tests positive or tests negative on the subsequent drug test.
In 2011, Indiana approved a similar requirement for people to apply for unemployment insurance, and just one percent of applicants failed. Similar numbers have come from Republican-led drug testing efforts in Florida.
What’s more, it’s not likely that such requirements actually save the state any money.
An abortion pill, officially known as RU-486, is the earliest available abortion option for a woman. A patient could be as little as one week pregnant and take the pill to terminate. But despite the incredibly early stage at which the pill is administered, a new bill proposed in the Indiana State Senate would require women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound before they are permitted to simply swallow the medication.
The provision is included in Senate Bill 371, which also would require any clinic that dispenses the drug — known as RU-486 — to meet the same requirements as a clinic that performs surgical abortions, though physicians’ offices would be exempt.
Those requirements, opponents say, potentially would force the Planned Parenthood clinic in Lafayette to close. That clinic offers the abortion pill but does not perform surgical abortions. If the bill passes, the clinic would have to widen hallways and doorways to meet state specifications for surgery and install anesthesia, surgical and sterilization equipment.
Twelve states already have unnecessary ultrasound laws on the books, and over a dozen more are being considered in state houses across the country. But the theory that legislators are peddling — that such laws might change a woman’s mind — ignore the simple fact that 90 percent of women feel very confident about their decision to get an abortion before seeing a doctor. A transvaginal ultrasound may cause a woman discomfort and cost her more money, but it’s unlikely to change her constitutionally-protected decision to get an abortion.
Indiana’s bill is actually twice as invasive as most forced ultrasound bills, the Huffington Post reports. The version that advanced out of a Senate committee today would require women to undergo two transvaginal probes — before and after taking the abortion pill. There’s no medically necessary reason to require an ultrasound after an abortion procedure, since women can simply take a blood test to see whether their hormone levels have returned to normal to verify that they are no longer pregnant.
Whether or not to have a straights-only prom has embroiled Indiana’ Northeast School corporation in a national controversy, particularly because of the comments made by special education teacher Diana Medley. Not only does she believe being gay is a choice influenced by “life circumstances,” but she doesn’t even believe gay people have any sort of purpose in life. Last week, Northeast Superintendent Mark A. Baker defended Medley’s right to free speech, apparently offering no concern about the potential harm to students by such comments. Given the controversy has not died down, it seems Medley has now been placed on administrative leave and the school has also increased security measures, according to a new statement from Baker:
As many of you know and appreciate, our school corporation is continuing to manage as responsibly and respectfully as possible the fallout from comments made by an employee as she attended a meeting outside of school or a school activity.
We have conveyed our disappointment and our disagreement with these statements and have emphasized her comments do not reflect our schools’ views or opinions.
The administration and one school employee in particular at North Central Jr/Sr High School have received aggressive email messages. We are turning over to law enforcement all such communications. Further, and as a precaution, the Indiana State Police and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department have deemed it necessary to station an officer at our high school. Additionally, these law enforcement agencies, while they are here, are familiarizing themselves with our buildings, as is part of their regular training.
For that, we are grateful for their support of our school and our students. This matter has created some heartbreaking differences in opinion. Please know we are always going to put the safety of our students and faculty first and any disruption of our educational process will be managed quickly.
In response to our concerns for the safety and security of everyone in our buildings, we have placed the employee at the center of this concern on administrative leave.
It’s unfortunate that safety has become a concern at the school, but it’s also disappointing that the school has not taken any responsibility for the impact of Medley’s comments on students. From this statement, it seems Medley’s suspension is only for her own safety and not to protect students from her very negative message of rejection. Though the district is to be commended for distancing itself from her remarks, it’s not clear that administrators have taken any steps to improve (or even assess) the climate for LGBT students.
When news broke that a group was trying to create a gays-free prom at Sullivan High School in Indiana, special education teacher Diana Medley’s anti-gay comments quickly became viral on the Internet. In addition to saying that homosexuality is a choice, she went so far as to say that gay people have no purpose in life. A Change.org petition with over 15,000 signatures is calling for disciplinary action, Dan Savage has called for her to be outright fired, other Indiana teachers are countering her message, and thanks to reddit, even the principal from Billy Madisonhas chimed in. It seems, though, that the school is not taking any action.
Superintendent Mark A. Baker released a statement Tuesday distancing the Northeast School Corporation from her position but defending her free speech:
I would like to clearly state the Northeast School Corporation has never denied any student the right to attend prom or any other Northeast School Corporation sponsored event due to their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Furthermore, the Northeast School Corporation has never denied any student access to any events sponsored by Northeast School Corporation. This includes sports, plays, musicals and any other extra-curricular activities.
In regards to the story that WTWO aired on February 10, 2013, the Northeast School Corporation employee that was interviewed was expressing her First Amendment rights. The views expressed are not the views of the Northeast School Corporation and/or the Board of Education.
These comments were expressed during a Sunday community meeting at a local church and at no time was she representing the Northeast School Corporation. The teacher was participating in a meeting with her local church congregation.
Of course Medley has the right to her fraudulent, offensive beliefs, but she also has an obligation to the safety and well-being of students that she supervises. As a special ed teacher, she is likely working with students who are already vulnerable to bullying because of their physical, mental, or learning disabilities. By publicly stating that an entire group of students don’t have a purpose in life, she compromises her trust as an educator. At the very least, remediation to help her understand the obvious harm inherent in her position should be required, if not further disciplinary action.
It’s still a bit early for prom season, but students, parents, and faculty at Sullivan High School in Indiana are already calling for a prom that bans gays from attending. Students believe that a “good prom” would be one where homosexuality is not allowed because “we don’t think it’s right nor should it be accepted.”
In addition to the basic homophobia at root in this story, what is quickly becoming a second story is the media’s attempt to cover up or tone down that anti-gay animus. Unsurprisingly, an invite-only Facebook group where proponents were publicly discussing the gay-free prom has disappeared, but not before plenty of screenshots were captured of the comments being made there. But even WTWO, the NBC affiliate that reported this story Sunday night, made numerous edits to the story since its first publication. For example, at one point, the video was removed from the story and the lede sentence (as was read by the anchor) was changed to soften its tone:
OLD: A team of Valley high schools and parents petition to ban gays from their prom.
NEW: A team of Valley high schoolers and parents rally for a traditional prom that bans gays.
Later Sunday evening, the odious testimony of special education teacher Diana Medley was significantly cut in a way that made her sound less anti-gay, though it has since been restored. Here were her comments to WTWO reporter Paige Preusse about how she believes nobody is born gay, as featured in the original news report that aired:
MEDLEY: I believe it was a choice that she made. I don’t believe that they were born that way. I think that life circumstances made them choose that. I think God made everybody equal.
PREUSSE: When a gay person, you know — do you consider them, maybe, that they have some sort of purpose in life?
MEDLEY: I don’t. I personally don’t, I’m sorry. I don’t understand it. A gay student, or adult, or person is going to come up and make some change unless they realize it was a choice and I’m choosing God.
The newly edited video featured with the article actually includes more comments from Medley than originally aired, but her comments about gays not having a purpose in life are not included in the printed version. Watch a clip of the original broadcast, which includes the anchor’s original lede — now cut from the posted video to reflect the change in the article:
It’s unclear what the fate of the prom is at this point, and school administrators have yet to weigh in. According to a Sullivan senior who contacted blogger Alvin McEwen, the proposed gay-free “traditional prom” would be a separate event not supported by the school, and not supported by all students. Two separate Facebookpages have been started calling for an inclusive prom, and a Change.org petition has been started calling for Medley to be disciplined for her offensive remarks suggesting gay people don’t have a purpose in life.
Last week, the mayor of Bloomington, IN presided over 13 same-sex weddings that will not be recognized by the state. (Photo Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein, The Indianapolis Star)
In 2011, lawmakers in Indiana approved a proposal for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Such amendments require passage in two consecutive legislative sessions before advancing to a referendum, which means it must be approved again during the 2013-2014 session to proceed. Indiana Republicans announced today, however, that they would not press for a vote this year, citing apprehensions that how the Supreme Court rules on marriage equality could impact the viability of the proposed change. The amendment is not dead, because they could still advance it to the ballot in 2014. A December poll showed that while Indiana voters are split on supporting same-sex marriage, a 54 percent majority opposes the amendment.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) used his State of the State speech this week to propose a 10-percent income tax cut that would cost the state so much money that even leading Republicans won’t support it. Pence’s proposal would cut the state’s income tax rate from 3.4 percent to 3.06 percent, a plan that follows up on corporate tax cuts and a phasing out of the state’s inheritance tax.
Indiana currently has a budget surplus, but it is one that was built largely on spending cuts to programs that benefit the state’s neediest residents. Pence’s plan would only exacerbate that problem, leaving Indiana with too little money to fully invest in education and other programs, state House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) told WISH TV:
To cut taxes the Pence budget will give schools spending increases of just 1 percent and Speaker Bosma says that not enough.
“We’ll probably invest more in that direction,” he said. In comments made in his Statehouse office Bosma also said the state needs to spend more on highway funding suggested there may be no middle ground between his position and the governor’s.
“It may be difficult to invest in all the critical needs we have before us and still accept the governor’s tax cut proposal,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s off the table.”
While Pence pitched it as a tax cut for every Indiana citizen, the Institution of Taxation and Economic Policy found that about 12 percent of Hoosiers, most of them low-income, would see no benefit from Pence’s plan. The plan is also wildly regressive, providing more than half its benefits to the wealthiest 20 percent of Indiana taxpayers. The average tax cut for the state’s top 1 percent would be more than $2,200, while the average middle-income taxpayer would receive just $102. The poorest 20 percent, ITEP found, would receive an average tax cut of just $18.
In the aftermath of last month’s mass shooting in a Newtown, CT elementary school, the National Rifle Association claimed the only thing that will prevent future tragedies in schools is “a good guy with a gun.” Now, one Indiana lawmaker is expanding on that line of thought to claim that allowing college students to carry concealed weapons will protect women from sexual assault.
State Sen. Jim Banks (R-IN) told the Associated Press that local members of Students for Concealed Carry, a national group that advocates for hidden guns on campuses, asked him to support the initiative as a method of protecting women on campus. “That’s what’s compelling about this issue, is how many female students there are around the state, who have very specific and real reasons to be afraid for their own safety on their campus,” Banks explained. “The number of sexual assault cases on campuses is alarming.”
While Banks is correct that college campuses still have a long way to go when it comes to addressing sexual assault and rape culture, he may want to reconsider his approach to those issues — especially since the educators and counselors who specialize in dealing with sexual violence on Indiana’s campuses haven’t been quick to lend their support to his measure. Two university officials told Indiana’s NPR affiliate that, due to the nature of most sexual crimes on college campuses, a concealed firearm likely wouldn’t be much actual help to the women attempting to defend themselves against rapists:
The premise is that armed students could better protect themselves from aggressors, including sexual abusers. But IU Sexual Assault Services Center counselor Debbie Melloan says a gun might offer less protection against rape than it would seem to.
“Most sexual assaults happen between people who know one another. You’re going to be in a close, kind of private setting…are you going to be willing to shoot the person that is your friend?”
IU-Bloomington Director of New Student Orientation Melanie Payne, speaking for herself and not the university, shares Melloan’s concern.
“They’re not picturing, you know, a nice, comfortable date that goes wrong, or a group party situation that goes wrong,” she said of students who might envision protecting themselves with a gun.
Indeed, an estimated two-thirds of sexual assaults occur between people who already know each other. And Melloan and Payne explained that the students who understand the situations that constitute sexual assault — that is, students who understand when their consent is being violated — are the students who have a better chance of protecting themselves against sexual assault. Increased education about rape culture on college campuses could actually be a more powerful tool than a gun.
In fact, conservative lawmakers like Banks — and right-wing groups like Students for Concealed Carry — who advocate for their agenda under the guise of “protecting women” are relying on a popular tactic from the anti-choice community. Anti-abortion activists often construe policies that hurt women, like limiting access to abortion clinics or imposing waiting periods for legal medical procedures, as methods of keeping women safe.
A state senator in Indiana introduced a bill on Thursday that would give public school districts the authority to mandate daily recitations of the Lord’s Prayer in public classrooms.
The bill, introduced on the first day of the new legislative session by Republican Senator Dennis Krause, outlines Kruse’s reasoning for requiring school prayer:
“In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen, the governing body of a school corporation or the equivalent authority of a charter school may require the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day. The prayer may be recited by a teacher, a student, or the class of students.”
Kruse’s bill would unquestionably run afoul of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that mandating school prayer is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Even fellow Republicans in the Indiana senate don’t think much of Kruse’s bill, with Republican Senate President Pro Tempore assigning it to a committee often considered a graveyard for legislation according to the Indianapolis Star.
This is not the first time Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican who also happens to chair the Senate education committee, has tried to inject Christianity into public schools. Last year, he led a push to introduce creationism into the science curriculum, and when that failed he tried to pass a bill that would have required teachers to provide “some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”
Despite the clear violation of the First Amendment, conservatives have taken a renewed interest in school prayer after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Several prominent conservatives, including Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, used the deaths of 27 people — including 20 elementary school students — as an opportunity to blame the lack of religion in schools for gun violence.
Cedar Lake police were called to the home of 60-year-old Von I. Meyer early Friday after he allegedly threatened to set his wife on fire. A police statement says Meyer also said he would enter Jane Ball Elementary School and “kill as many people as he could.” Authorities found 47 guns and ammunition worth over $100,000.