Republicans know their tried-and-true method of getting constituents to the polls is to scare them into voting. That’s why we see so much hateful and divisive rhetoric coming from Republicans all over the map, and why so much of it seems to follow the same playbook. Conservatives have been pushing anti-queer and anti-trans bills targeting health care, sports, and books, for example, in addition to efforts to stomp down on reproductive rights and abortion access. We’ve also seen conservatives raise hysteria over critical race theory (CRT) which is not being taught in public school classrooms to begin with—you’d have to enroll in a college-level course, typically.
Regardless, if anyone can make hysteria into a years-long campaign topic, it’s Republicans. Let’s look at Iowa as a recent example. As reported by the Iowa Starting Line, House Education Committee Chair Sykler Wheeler has introduced House Bill 112, which seeks to create a system for parents or students to report suspected violations of the anti-CRT law the state already has on the books.
If this sounds like a means to get public school teachers who remotely touch on race or systems of oppression fired or scared into silence, I’d say you’re exactly right.
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Here’s how this would work. HB 112 would allow folks to report any suspected violation of a public school teacher covering topics including racism, diversity, inclusion, and sexism. Specifically, people would be able to log onto the Iowa Department of Education’s website and report a suspected violation. The Department of Education would evaluate the complaint. If they found it valid, they’d reach out to the local school board. From there, the school board would have two weeks to respond to the violation.
If the school board doesn’t correct the violation, the school district could face a civil penalty of up to $5,000 with a minimum of $500. All suspected violation reports would be made available to the Iowa Legislature in a yearly report.
How would these claims be investigated? How do we know if the school district is in violation? We don’t know the answers to those very important questions.
We do know, however, that Wheeler in particular is no stranger to introducing or supporting hateful and exclusionary bills. For example, Wheeler supported the House File 9 bill, which bans school staff from “affirming” a student’s gender identity and pronouns if they’re different from what’s written on their birth certificate—the only exception being written consent from the student's parent. This would apply to all grades and ages in public schools.
Wheeler told the Iowa Capital Dispatch that the goal is to keep parents informed, which sounds like a nice way of saying students don’t deserve privacy or autonomy.
“Parents want to know what’s going on,” Wheeler told the outlet, adding that parents “need” to be the first ones to help their children process and help.
But the reality is, young people deserve to have trusted confidants outside of their parents if they so choose—teachers, coaches, and other adults can and should be available to offer support, wisdom, and guidance. Many LGBTQ+ people are simply not safe being “out” at home, and in fact could become homeless or abused as a result of such information.
“When you stick masks on kindergartners and parents object to it,” Wheeler has said in the recent past in reference to an expensive private school voucher program in Iowa, per the Iowa Starting Line. “And then you tell the parents to get lost, you better believe this is going to come up.’”
You know what else is going to come up? Folks who are here and ready to combat misinformation and hysteria with the truth.