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Despite concerns from some lawmakers and lobbyists, a bill to ban certain types of diversity training not just in public schools and universities - as first proposed - but also in 'government agencies and entities” advanced Tuesday in the Senate.
House File 802 would ban diversity training involving race or sex 'stereotyping” and 'scapegoating” by state and local governments - not only institutions of higher education and school districts - and also would bar K-12 'curriculum” - not just training - involving certain 'divisive concepts” including whether America or Iowa is fundamentally or systemically racist.
The expanded measure defines governmental entities now included under its purview as any executive, legislative or judicial body; political subdivision; association or organization with mostly governmental membership; as well as counties and cities.
It also pertains to 'any unit of another state government, including political subdivisions.”
'I hadn't realized that we had colonized Nebraska or that we were asserting any dominion there,” Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, told fellow lawmakers, lobbyists and members of the public Tuesday during an education subcommittee discussion on the amended bill.
Quirmbach was the only subcommittee member against moving the bill forward.
'The reach of this bill has metastasized. I think that's extremely troubling,” he said. 'Now you're injecting curriculum at the K-12 level … It is not the province of the Legislature to set curriculum. That's up to the Board of Education.”
Praising independence afforded Iowa's school boards, Quirmbach suggested this bill's revisions specifically targeted the '1619 project” from The New York Times on the history of slavery - which other legislation have looked to ban - and a Black Lives Matter week held this semester in the Ames School District.
'Our local schools need to be have the ability to introduce different curricula, if only for the purpose of criticizing and critiquing them,” he said. 'So I am not going to sign on to this bill.”
But fellow subcommittee members - Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, and Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center - did, despite Taylor's qualms.
Urging a more concise version and backing tweaks for the bill, Taylor said he supports banning diversity training involving race or sex stereotyping or scapegoating - language pulled from a Trump-era executive order that since has been reversed.
'I don't believe in stereotyping. I don't believe in scapegoating. I don't believe in trying to shame people because of inherent traits that they have, like ethnicity or skin color or gender - and I think that's what this bill was trying to get at,” Taylor said. 'I do believe that there is a certain approach of identity politics that does divide us by race and gender, which isn't helpful.
'I don't think it fits in with a traditional view of civil rights. And I do think it's a type of reverse prejudice and reverse discrimination. I'm against that.”
Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, and other opponents aired accusations the measure threatens to ignore aspects of American history and deny implicit biases.
'You cannot have a race where someone cheats at the beginning of the race, and then later in the race tries to prohibit people from calling out cheating - which is exactly what is happening here,” Andrews said. 'America has been systemically racist. And that is a fact.”
Andrews addressed comments from Family Leader advocate Danny Carroll, who earlier in the hearing said people of a certain race or gender should not be held accountable for past transgressions 'simply because you happen to be the same race as those actors in the past.”
But for those who've been forced to face the impact of America's transgressions, Andrews said, 'Not being able to have these conversations and to be able to openly express our First Amendment right of speaking and putting into context America's bias and racist past is a disservice to us all.”
The bill next goes to the Senate's full education committee and must come out before the second funnel deadline of April 2 to remain eligible for this session.
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