Iowa City Community School District introduces reform after Indigenous communities accuse the school of racism

The district outlined five points that it will change after conversations with the Indigenous community. In a meeting last month, the district was accused of being racist towards the Iowa City Indigenous community.


Shuntaro Kawasaki

Iowa City Community School District board members react during a meeting at the Professional Development Center at the Educational Services Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.

Jack Moore, News Reporter

The Iowa City Community School District will be changing some of its methods of teaching following recent accusations of racism toward Indigenous people.

Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Matt Degner outlined five areas where the school would take action at the school board meeting Tuesday after parents and students were dissatisfied with the treatment of Indigenous people in the district and city. 

Degner said the conversation with the Indigenous community is a good learning opportunity for the district and it is always an area of focus for it. 

“There’s, unfortunately going to be mistakes at different points, but I think it’s always about how we respond to those and how we’re willing to take that feedback and just try to improve the system,” he said. 

The district is taking multiple steps to revise guidelines, create mandatory training, and provide resources following the parent and student accusations. 

Degner said the district will introduce the book “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years” by Bill Bigelow into its school libraries to be a resource for students and staff. The book contains a variety of essays, poems, and lesson plans revolving around myths about Christopher Columbus and Indigenous rights. 

Additionally, the school district will reform its mandatory training for teachers and staff to make it more accurate and inclusive of Indigenous people, Degner said.

“We’ve included additional terminology and references in our professional development mandatory trainings for staff as we go through the year to make sure that we’re confident in recognizing our Indigenous community,” he said. 

RELATED: Indigenous community members speak out following racism allegations in Iowa City school district

The district also looked at its disciplinary guidelines, which is the Cognitive Behavior Approach. The school plans to add terminology inclusive of Indigenous people in its guidelines. 

Degner said there is also new “do’s and don’ts” resource in the school’s equity toolkit to address inclusivity. The school’s website includes a webinar entitled “Indigenous People’s History”.

Lastly, Degner said the school would like to promote an ongoing relationship with the Indigenous community in Iowa City.

“We’ll continue to work with members of our Indigenous communities equity advisory committee to find presenters and teachers from their community to help us lead some of that unique work,” he said.