Waukee Community School District adopts Learning for Justice’s “Social Justice Standards”; teachers reportedly promote race and gender ideology in classrooms
The Waukee Community School District has a page on its website titled “Equity and Inclusion.” The school district states on the page that it “is committed to providing an equitable education for all students.” The page has a section called “Important Definitions.” A few of the definitions include “equity,” “inclusion,” and “identity.” The school district defines “identity” as “the characteristics that define who people are, the way they think about themselves, and how they are viewed by the world.” The school district then includes “ethnicity,” “gender,” and “race” as traits of someone’s identity.
The school district’s website also has additional equity pages detailing the district’s equity goals and plans. One equity page is titled “Culture of Belonging.” The page lists four “actions toward change” that the school district plans to achieve:
- Build partnerships and community.
- Repair harm and restore relationships.
- Affirm differences and uniqueness.
- Presume competence and positive intent.
The school district’s website also has a page titled “Waukee Equity Standards.” The page claims that the “Waukee Equity Standards are a set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains: identity, diversity, justice, and action.” The school district also appears to explain on the page that the purpose of these standards is to turn students into political activists. The page continues to state:
The standards provide a common language and organizational structure to help reduce prejudice and advocate for positive change. In today’s world, these are essential skills for all humans. Teachers will use the standards to guide classroom discussions and learning opportunities making our schools more inclusive and safe.
The equity standards include teaching children as young as in kindergarten to “name some of [their] identities.” By their senior year, students should be able to know their “family history and cultural background” and be able to describe how their “own identity is informed and shaped by [their] history and culture.” High school students are also expected to “understand that diversity includes the topics of discrimination as well as the enactment and enforcement of laws which impacted the development of identities and cultures.”
The equity standards also include teaching children as young as in kindergarten about perceived “discrimination.” From the sixth to ninth grade, students should be able to “recognize and describe unfairness and injustices in many forms including attitudes, speech, behaviors, practices, and laws.” At this same point in school, students should be “aware that words, behaviors, unjust practices and laws can affect people in society, based on group or individual identities.”
The school district’s equity standards additionally include encouraging kindergartners to “express empathy and stand up to exclusion, prejudice, and injustice.” High school students are expected to “have the courage to speak up to people when their words, actions, or views are biased and hurtful.” High school students are also expected to “join with peers, family, and community members to plan and carry out action against exclusion, prejudice, and discrimination.”
The school district’s equity standards appear to be taken directly from Learning for Justice’s Social Justice Standards. Learning for Justice has pushed for its “Social Justice Standards” to be adopted in schools throughout the country. The document for these standards includes goals to achieve for students. One goal is that “students will develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.” Another goal appears to outright state that the purpose of the “Social Justice Standards” is to turn students into political activists: “Students will make principled decisions about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in their everyday lives and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.”
The school district has a “FAQ” page explaining that Governor Kim Reynolds “signed into law House File 802 establishing specific requirements related to racism and sexism training, as well as, diversity and inclusion efforts by state governmental entities which includes Iowa public schools.” The page appears to explain how educators and schools can bypass the law through technicalities.
At one point, the “FAQ” page quotes the bill in explaining what can’t be taught: “That an individual, solely because of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” However, the page then explains that “intent matters here” before stating that “this does not prohibit the teaching of concepts such as bias.” The page also quotes another issue that can’t be taught: “That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.” The school district follows this up by explaining that while “this prohibits teaching that meritocracy or hard work ethic were created with the intention of oppressing another race,” the law “does not prohibit teaching or discussion on whether the meritocracy or hard work ethic resulted in oppression of another race.”
The “FAQ” page also appears to bring gender identity into the issue of the law. The school district discusses “pronouns” on the page and states that “HF 802 does not prohibit an educator from sharing their pronouns or from inviting students to express their own pronouns.”
The school district’s website also has a page titled “Your Voice Matters.” The page features a form that students, parents, and teachers can fill out to provide their opinions on how the school district can be more “equitable.” The page explains: “Your voice matters in our collective movement toward equity, anti-oppression, and building inclusive environments.”
The school district has a strategic plan to achieve “equity and belonging” for students. The strategic plan also states that the school district believes in “inclusivity” with the intention to “create a culture in which everyone can (safely/openly) be themselves.” The strategic plan also emphasizes that the school district intends to implement Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in the “curriculum” and “lesson planning” for teachers. SEL is a method of teaching often used to push racial and gender ideologies into the material that students learn. The strategic plan states that the school district will annually “establish teams to review and ensure vertical and horizontal curriculum articulation” of equity initiatives.
The strategic plan outright states that the school district will use students to push equity in schools and will also implement equity initiatives into the curricula taught to students in classrooms. The school district plans to “establish district Student Equity Teams dedicated to exploring and educating at micro (individuals, classrooms) and macro (buildings, departments, district, community) levels by August 31, 2021.” The school district also plans to “annually increase diversity content in the courses, programs, and experiences across the various academic programs and in the social dimensions of the ‘campus’ environment.”
Parents and teachers in the local community came together last year to form the organization “Warriors & Wolves United.” The organization documented several cases of the school district and teachers pushing racial and gender ideologies in the district. In one case, a father spoke at a school board meeting on August 9, 2021. He described how a teacher read a book to his fifth grade son’s class titled Call Me Max. The book is about a child who is transgender attending school. The father then explained that the teacher told the students in the class that “it wasn’t the students’ fault if your parent assumed your gender when you were born and called you the wrong thing.” [Time Stamp: 1:10:38]
Warriors & Wolves United also explained on the organization’s website that “Waukee students in grades 6-12 were given forms in every class to declare their ‘preferred pronouns'” in the first week of the 2021-2022 school year. Students could also choose that their families not know about their gender identity. The students were asked what “pronouns” they use. Students could then ask the school district to “please don’t use it with my family at home.”
The organization also reported that “Waukee teachers received an email with a recommendation to watch a disturbing movie on Hulu called ‘In & Of Itself’ for professional development.” The organization then explained that “the movie promotes ‘identity is an illusion’ and challenges teachers to confront students about who they really are.”
The organization reported that in 2021 the “Northwest High School Principal denied students’ request for a USA theme day for homecoming week and referred to the students as ‘white girls.'” The Iowa Standard also reported that the principal in a statement then further clarified her comment:
When sharing with the students personal negative experiences I had as an educator, the students said that they had never seen that in Waukee. I clarified for the students that their personal experiences as white girls will always differ from mine as a Hispanic woman, but it does not negate my experiences or that they exist in different communities even if they are not visible to them.
The Iowa Standard also reported that a book titled Something Happened in Our Town was displayed on a video to eight-year-old students in one of the school district’s elementary schools. The Iowa Standard reported that the book discusses how a black man was shot and killed by a police officer because of the color of his skin. One character in the book reportedly states, “Sometimes White people are treated better than Black people.”
Warriors & Wolves United further reported that a high school Spanish teacher told her class that “all white people are racists.” A middle school teacher also reportedly told students that they were “homophobic” for eating Chick-fil-A. In another incident, the organization reported that parents were “forced to homeschool Waukee Middle School 6th grade student midyear due to severe anxiety from being singled out by some of his teachers due to his personal values and beliefs.” On August 6, 2021, the child’s mother explained the situation at a school board meeting:
Last year after the equity standards were passed and I didn’t know about it, my sixth grader began having significant performance problems at school. In his mind, he was being targeted because of his identity. Some of his teachers simply did not like what he stood for and made him feel bad for it. In January, he started to have severe anxiety attacks as soon as he walked into the building. It was a hard decision, but we decided to home school him for the second half of the year. He felt unwelcomed like he no longer belonged at Waukee. [Time Stamp: 57:50]