This FAQ document is based on the district’s current understanding of Iowa House File 802 as informed by the Act itself, as well as the Preliminary Guidance from the Iowa Department of Education and recent joint guidance from the Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa and the Iowa State Education Association. If additional relevant information becomes available, this document may be updated.
- Preliminary State Guidance for Equity, Inclusion and Free Speech
- Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa and Iowa State Education Association Guidance
- Iowa State FAQs with 802
On June 8, 2021, Governor Reynolds signed into law House File 802 establishing specific requirements related to racism and sexism training, as well as, diversity and inclusion efforts by state governmental entities which includes Iowa public schools.
Generally, the Act prohibits the state’s public schools from conducting mandatory staff or student trainings or offering curriculum that teaches, advocates, acts upon, or promotes specific stereotyping or scapegoating by others on the basis of demographic group membership or identity or specific prohibited defined concepts. The prohibited specific defined concepts are defined in the Act and are explained within this FAQ.
The Act also prohibits public school employees from discriminating against students and employees based upon political ideology or any other characteristic protected under applicable state and federal law (see Waukee Non-Discrimination Policy), and calls for the district’s diversity and inclusion efforts to discourage students from doing so.
The Act applies to all “mandatory staff or student training” at school, including mandatory training conducted by district staff. The Act does not apply to voluntary programs and activities that staff and students may elect to attend or not to attend.
HF 802 requires school districts to ensure that curriculum and staff training do not “teach, advocate, encourage, promote, or act upon specific stereotyping and scapegoating.” How are these terms defined?
“Race or sex scapegoating” is defined as assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex because of their race or sex, or claiming that, consciously or unconsciously, and by virtue of persons’ race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others, or that members of a sex are inherently sexist or inclined to oppress others.
“Race or sex stereotyping” is defined as ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.
(Iowa Association of School Boards, 2021)
- “That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.”
- “That the United States of America and the State of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.” This does not prohibit teaching key portions of our shared history as a country; including teaching that factors such as slavery were fundamental in shaping how our federal government was designed or teaching about actual racist or sexist policies that were implemented by the United States or Iowa.
- “That an individual, solely because of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Intent matters here. This does not prohibit the teaching of concepts such as bias. But it prohibits teaching that bias is caused due to an individual’s race or sex or that certain groups are inherently biased against others.
- “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.” This still permits training and curriculum that shows the historical success or shortcomings of this approach. More directly stated, it is permissible for training to discuss whether taking a “colorblind” approach has resulted in more equitable achievement among students of varying races and genders.
- “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.” This should not be taught either in training or curriculum. However, if the effect of training or curriculum on the topic of discrimination is that the student or employee feels responsible, no violation of the law has occurred.
- “That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” This concept prohibits teaching that individuals should feel distress. This concept does not prohibit individuals from feeling distress as a natural consequence of discussing discrimination based on race or sex. If an employee does not teach it but a student or employee feels distress, that is not a violation of the law.
- “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.” 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.
- “Any other form of race or sex scapegoating or any other form of race or sex stereotyping.” The DE guidance states: “This provision is implicated only if an individual is expected to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of that individual’s race or sex.” The emotions of “discomfort, guilt or anguish” may be rational responses to discussions of certain topics, such as discrimination. This section does not require elimination of emotional discussions. What it does require is that trainings or curricula not assign blame or imply individuals ought to feel pain based on their race or sex.”
- Grading/Evaluation of Student Work:
- Staff should provide a learning environment where students can feel comfortable sharing their views and opinions as part of their learning and development. When teachers ask students to share their views and opinions, they should not be graded on what views or opinions the students express; but may be graded on how clearly they articulate their thoughts.
- Professional Development/Training:
- Districts can and should continue to engage in this important work. Educators are encouraged to work proactively with the trainers providing mandatory training to ensure the content is both meaningful and respects the parameters of HF 802. Training may still consist of an exploration of our society’s past and current state of racism, sexism and inequality. For instance, training can include individual accounts and experiences of inequity, racism and sexism. Meaningful dialog on the topics of racism and sexism often has the effect of making people feel uncomfortable. Such discomfort is not prohibited by HF 802. Training should create an environment of respect where a diversity of views and beliefs can be safely shared to encourage everyone to thoughtfully consider alternate views. Creating such an environment is not easy to do, but it is vital to model this behavior through training with employees, so that employees can create similar safe environments that foster a diversity of views for student classrooms.
- Extra-Curricular events & presenters:
- If the event or presenter is not part of the curriculum or a mandatory student or staff training, the prohibitions do not apply. Extra-curricular events or presenters that are voluntary may address specific defined concepts.
- HF 802 does not prohibit an educator from sharing their pronouns or from inviting students to express their own pronouns.
No. Waukee will continue its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with the Equity Standards as the foundation for that ongoing work. The Act requires the school district to review its curriculum and mandatory training on these topics and make any necessary adjustments to ensure compliance, which WCSD continues to make a good faith effort to do.
It depends. It is important to note that “This language applies to a curriculum or staff or student training that is specific to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This language shall not be construed to prohibit these discussions anywhere in the school, such as in the course of a broader academic discussion” (Iowa Code § 279.74(2).
No. Each content area has its own academic standards. The Equity Standards serve as a framework to ensure each content area considers identity, diversity, justice, and action as an integral part of learning. The Equity Standards are brave spaces that serve as windows and mirrors to our Academic Standards.
In the course of a school year, students engage in a wide variety of experiences, discussions, and activities. Each student’s reaction will be different as they continue to grow academically, physically, and emotionally. We always recommend establishing a relationship that includes communicating directly with staff about questions regarding your child’s education.
As students grow, it is important to recognize and value the different aspects of who they are as individuals. This is key in healthy social emotional growth. A student’s sense of belonging to any group is determined by the student, not staff.
What HF802 would prohibit would be to name a defined group and ascribe them certain negative traits merely based on membership in that group. Even before HF802, this was not allowed, per state and federal Civil Rights laws.
The Act does not affect, or minimally affects, the majority of diversity, equity, and inclusion related programs and activities, and educational courses, offered by the district. The Act itself makes clear that public institutions may continue:
- “training that fosters a workplace and learning environment that is respectful of all employees and students”;
- “promoting racial, cultural, ethnic, intellectual, or academic diversity or inclusiveness”;
- “the use of curriculum that teaches the topics of sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, or racial discrimination, including topics relating to the enactment and enforcement of laws resulting in sexism, racial oppression, segregation, and discrimination”.
- “discussing specific defined concepts as part of a larger course of academic instruction”;
In addition, the Act does not prohibit a district employee or contractor who provides mandatory training from responding to questions regarding specific defined concepts raised by participants in the training.
Finally, nothing in the Act may be construed so as to violate the First Amendment rights of members of the district.
Scheduled diversity training programs should continue. The compliance plan being implemented by the district will allow for any necessary adjustments to mandatory training, while continuing our efforts to promote a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming district climate.