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State Education Department social justice training postponed by bill in Legislature

DES MOINES — A spokesman for the Iowa Department of Education says a social justice and equity conference for educators has been postponed in response to a bill in the Iowa Legislature. The House bill bans so-called “divisive concepts” in government diversity training and school curriculum — including teaching that the U-S and the state of Iowa are “fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.”

A retired education department official, Tom Rendon, was supposed to give a presentation at the conference.  “What concerned me was that the work we do here in education-and equity, I think is an important part of it, especially in early childhood-is being hindered even before this House File 802 becomes law,” according to Rendon.

Simpson College assistant professor Katrina Cummings was also supposed to speak at the equity conference. “If teachers aren’t prepared to be responsive to diversity, to differences, because there’s a lack of training, or limited scope of training, I think that could have a great impact on teacher competence, as well as the experience of their students,” Cummings says.

The bill passed out of the House without any Democratic support and was sent to the Senate. Republican Representative Steven Holt of Denison said during debate he believes that teaching or applying a certain characteristic to a certain group of people based on color is the very definition of racism. Holt said, “the way I was raised, that’s un-American.”

Representative Henry Stone, a Republican from Forest City, is an Asian American who told his colleagues he’s been called every racial slur you could imagine, but Stone said he does not believe there is “systemic racism” in the United States or in Iowa.

The Education Department says they’re rescheduling the conference for this fall.

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