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The Iowa State Education Association joined the Iowa Association of School Boards and the School Administrators of Iowa to provide a document on teaching and promoting equity, diversity and inclusion in schools since the Iowa legislature passed House File 802 and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it into law earlier this year.

The bill requires school districts to make sure curriculum and staff training does not “teach, advocate, encourage, promote or act upon specific stereotyping and scapegoating.”

In the email, sent by the President of the Iowa State Education Association – Mike Beranek – recipients are told:

“The ISEA believes education professionals can find age-appropriate ways to tell hard truths about our country’s past and present in order to prepare our students for the real world and a better future.

“Regardless, this guidance is here to help you understand the law and where potential pitfalls may exist. It’s also a good resource in the event your administration or school board members attempt to take action against you based on a misapplication of this legislation.

“This joint guidance compiled with the Iowa Association of School Boards and School Administrators of Iowa helps assure us all there will not be a chilling effect on lawful educator conduct.”

The concepts listed in House File 802 are:

*That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.

*That the US and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.

*That an individual, solely because of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

*That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment
solely or partly because of the individual’s race or sex.

*That members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others
without respect to race or sex.

*That an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by the individual’s
race or sex.

*That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility
for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.

*That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of
psychological distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.

*That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were
created by a particular race to oppress another race.

*Any other form of race or sex scapegoating or any other form of race or sex

But for many of the concepts, the document shares ideas on how to get around the law.

For instance, the document states that the law does not prohibit teaching key portions of our shared history as a county; including teaching that factors such as slavery were fundamental in shaping how our federal government was designed or actual racist or sexist policies that were implemented by the US or Iowa.

In addition, nothing prohibits the teaching of concepts such as implicit bias or unconscious bias. Also, training and curriculum can still discuss whether taking a “colorblind” approach has resulted in more equitable achievement among students of varying races and genders.

As for No. 8, the document states that the concept prohibits teaching that individuals should feel distress.

“This concept does not prohibit individuals from feeling distress as a natural consequence of discussing oppression based on race or sex,” the document states. “If an employee does not teach it but a student or employee feels distress, that is not a violation of the law.”

And No. 9 — the one involving meritocracy and hard work. Here is what the document says:

“Intent matters here. This prohibits teaching that meritocracy or hard work ethic were created with the intention of oppressing another race. However, this concept does not prohibit teaching or discussion on whether the meritocracy or hard work ethic resulted in oppression of another race. Keep in mind that if during a discussion on the effects of meritocracy on minority races, a student asks a question on whether that is the intent of the meritocracy concept, the employee may respond to the question.”

Districts are told they can and should continue to provide mandatory training on equity.

“Training may still consist of an exploration of our society’s past and current state of racism, sexism and inequality,” the document states. “Training can include individual accounts and experiences of inequity, racism and sexism.”

If the event or presenter is not part of the curriculum or a mandatory student or staff training, prohibitions do not apply, the document adds.

“Cocurricular events or presenters that are voluntary may address specific defined concepts,” it states.

Staff can allow students to engage in discussions about racial oppression, including systemic and institutional racism, as part of a classroom discussion, the document says. It adds that the Department of Education has issued written guidance that staff may mention actual or purported racist or sexist policies implemented by local, state or federal governments.

One of the frequently asked questions the document purports to answer:

“Does HF 802 prohibit an educator from indicating their own preferred pronouns or inviting students to express their preferred pronouns?

“No, HF 802 does not prohibit an educator from sharing their preferred pronouns or from inviting students to express their own preferences.”

Members are told that displaying items with a social message like a pride flag, ‘love is love,’ or ‘Black Lives Matter’ needs to be reviewed based on local policies.

Here is the full document:

ISEA doc

Author: Jacob Hall