The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City schools discuss implementation of educational materials on Israel-Hamas war in libraries

Administrators, teachers, and librarians are working to incorporate information on the war into the curriculum at Iowa City schools.
Carly Schrum
Iowa City Community School’s Superintendent Matt Degner during a school board meeting in the District’s Educational Services Center, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.

As part of the Iowa City Community School District’s commitment to equity, the district is having discussions on plans to diversify library collections and facilitate conversations on religion in historical contexts.

Since the war started on Oct. 7, 2023, Iowa City has seen multiple protests about either side of the war.

On Jan. 26, these protests extended to Iowa City High School. Students walked out of class to show their support for Palestine and denounced the Biden administration’s candid support for Israel and its handling of the war.

To support these families and educate those who are not directly affected, the Iowa City Community School District is collaborating with teachers, principals, and librarians to address the topic of Gaza thoughtfully and inclusively.

During a Jan. 23 school board meeting, Superintendent Matt Degner responded to community requests to address the conflict in Iowa City schools.

Degner said the current curriculum will be surveyed for content that already touches on Middle Eastern, Israeli, or Palestinian history, as well as gaps where content can be added as the district or teachers see fit.

Degner also advocated for supplemental materials like books in libraries that students may pursue on their own to extend their knowledge of the events and history behind the war if they wish to do so. He said it is a constant mission for the district to be culturally inclusive in the literature they provide for students.

“Teachers are supplementing their curriculum all the time with things that they see in current world events,” Degner said. “Our curriculum coordinators will continue to work collaboratively with the equity team.”

The district is also tackling issues such as harassment, Islamophobia, or antisemitism that students may face because of the conflict.

School board member Jayne Finch noted that a more diverse curriculum could alleviate the isolation felt by some Jewish and Muslim students, which can lead to discrimination.

“Our district strives to create a culture in which differences are honored and appreciated,” she said. “The work of ensuring that all voices are heard and respected is what our teachers do in the classroom every day.”

Iowa City High School senior Kalea Seaton also emphasized the importance of representing these groups in classroom literature and history discussions. Seaton said all students should understand the complexity of the situation, which could help curb the spread of misinformation among students.

“Adequate education as well as inclusive conversation about the conflict and hate speech are efforts that schools should be taking in order to prevent any such incidents from happening in the school environment,” Seaton said.

RELATED: Over 50 Iowa City high school students walk out of class to protest Israel-Hamas war

Regarding policies meant to inform and educate students, Kristin Pedersen, Iowa City schools’ director of community relations, said the district’s policy on discussing current events is comprehensive. No specific changes have been made yet concerning the Israel-Hamas war.

Still, while Seaton has not personally observed conversations around the Israel-Hamas war escalating into harassment or violence at her school, she said she believes it is an issue that warrants proactive attention.

“This is not a situation that schools should be waiting to handle when it happens,” she said.

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About the Contributors
Grace Olson
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.