Republicans launch shameless bid to protect hate speech in schools as Trump’s toxic legacy lingers

University of Iowa gay marriage

An Iowa Republican legislator is proposing something called the Senate Study Bill, which would ban public schools from diversity training and protect hate speech.

Republican senator Amy Sinclair introduced Senate Study Bill 1205, which would bar K-12 public schools and public universities in Iowa from rolling out any anti-bias training or promoting “divisive concepts” in the name of the First Amendment.

The latter covers racism and sexism, but also seeks to ban discussion of institutional racism, unconscious bias, and the notion that the “state of Iowa is fundamentally racist or sexist” .

The bill would also protect “unwelcome, disagreeable or even offensive speech” which would include hateful slurs or derogatory language. After passing through the Iowa education subcommittee, of which Sinclair is the chair, it will now go before the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.

The bill is a carbon copy of Trump’s banned executive order

Former president Donald Trump sought to put in place an executive order which banned anti-bias training within the “executive departments and agencies, the US military, federal contractors and federal grant recipients”. The order would have outlawed education on “divisive concepts” that cause “discomfort, guilt and anguish” to its subjects.

The bill also would have removed “race or sex scapegoating” including “materials teaching that men and members of certain races… are inherently sexist and racist”.

But a federal court issued an injunction against Trump’s executive order, preventing it from going into law. Lambda Legal, the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, CrescentCare, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) led the LGBT+ groups that bought a lawsuit against the administration for the orders in November 2019.

In their filings for the courts, the groups said the ban on anti-bias training violated the first and fifth amendment rights of federal contractors and employees because it infringed on their free speech, disfavouring them based on the content of their speech and providing “inadequate notice of the conduct it purports to prohibit”.

Iowa bill is response to university actions

The Gazette reported that the proposed bill is one of several bills inspired by events that took place at three Iowa colleges where conservative speech or actions were condemned. In the fall, an Iowa State University professor was criticised for creating a syllabus that warned students not take positions in class opposing abortions, Black Lives Matter or same-sex marriage.

The University of Northern Iowa’s student government rejected a student organisation applicant that opposed abortion rights, calling it a “hate group”.

The University of Iowa and its dental college issued a statement condemning Trump’s order banning diversity and anti-bias training programmes. One student at the dental school questioned his dean for condemning the executive order.