Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new law that she said will target the teaching of critical race theory and other concepts in government diversity trainings and classroom curriculum.
“Critical Race Theory is about labels and stereotypes, not education. It teaches kids that we should judge others based on race, gender or sexual identity, rather than the content of someone’s character,” Reynolds said in a statement. “I am proud to have worked with the legislature to promote learning, not discriminatory indoctrination.”
Critical race theory, a decades-old legal theory that examines how slavery's legacy continues to influence American society, is not specifically named in the new legislation. But the law would ban teaching certain concepts, such as that the U.S. or Iowa is systemically racist.
The new law, House File 802, goes into effect July 1.
Reynolds' signing comes as other Republicans across the country have said they want to eliminate teaching critical race theory and associated concepts from classrooms. Iowa is among more than a dozen states that have considered legislation this year aimed at eliminating similar concepts from classroom curriculum.
Opponents have said the efforts would likely discourage important conversations about racism and sexism. The Iowa legislation faced opposition from Democrats and a variety of groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP. Opponents criticized the Iowa law as vague and subjective.
According to the Washington Post, most teachers don't specifically refer to "critical race theory" in the classroom, but some lessons do reflect some of its themes, such as the existence of systemic racism.
Iowa's law will ban teaching the ideas that:
The U.S. or state of Iowa is fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.
An individual, by virtue of race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, either consciously or unconsciously
Anyone should “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of one's race or sex.
It also will ban any form of “race or sex stereotyping” or "race or sex scapegoating.” “Race or sex stereotyping” is defined as ascribing “character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status or beliefs” to any race or sex. "Race or sex scapegoating” is defined as assigning “fault, blame or bias” to a race or sex, or claiming that members have any inherent racism or sexism, conscious or unconscious.
The measure prohibits school and college employees from discriminating against students or other employees based on political ideology, along with protected characteristics outlined in federal civil rights law. School and college diversity and inclusion training must also discourage students from this kind of discrimination.
The bill applies to classroom instruction and mandatory diversity training for state and local government employees. It would not ban teachers or instructors from answering questions about those concepts, and it would not prevent teachers from discussing them as part of a larger course of study.
Iowa's new law, in parts, draws nearly word for word from a Trump administration executive order that targeted critical race theory. President Joe Biden rescinded the order in January.