In 2019, Critical Race Theory (CRT) moved from the pages of law journals to the front page of the newspaper and became the centerpiece of a partisan political battle over the classroom. In response, several states have passed laws to ban CRT from the classroom. Iowa’s CRT ban directly regulates speech about race in K-12 classrooms and one Iowa university has used it to limit speech about race in college classrooms. This article argues that this kind of viewpoint discriminatory law would usually be facially unconstitutional. However, Iowa’s CRT law regulates public school teachers and college professors, who exist in a First Amendment twilight zone created by the Supreme Court’s employee speech jurisprudence. Even though teachers and professors are having their speech abridged, they cannot get into court on a First Amendment Theory. To fill in this gap, Courts faced with Iowa’s CRT ban should clarify the protections for professors engaged in teaching and research and recognize a student’s right to receive information. These solutions would put a stop to the current rash of politically motivated tinkering with the K-12 and University curriculum and allow the education system to grapple honestly with past injustice.

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John Beaty, Critical Race Theory in the Classroom: Iowa’s Critical Race Theory Ban and the Limits of the First Amendment, 27 J. Gender, Race & Just. 137 (2024). 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024