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Something to SELebrate?

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

The Iowa Department of Education has adopted a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) framework complete with a video promoting the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) organization.

UPDATE: As of the week of 2/20/2023 CASEL has been REMOVED from the IDOE website!

Who would criticize something as positive sounding as Social Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” - CASEL

Sounds like a great thing, right? After taking a deeper dive into SEL and how it's evolving, we've come to the conclusion that unless you're in the business of indoctrinating Iowa's children, that this isn't something to SELebrate.

This article may not be a quick read but if you take the time to follow the links and watch the videos you will come away with a much greater understanding of SEL and an appreciation for the real dangers that it's presenting to Iowa's developing youth and to the future of our political and cultural landscape.

This isn't simply about obscene material in the class room and in school libraries, which has sadly become commonplace in Iowa schools. This is about the political, racial, gender theories and ideologies that have been inserted into every subject through what's now evolved into "Transformative" SEL.

It's about the emotional manipulation of our children and the data being collected about their lives, their families, their beliefs and values and their emotional states. Data that parents don't have access to and could possibly be sold and distributed to corporations, organizations and special interest groups.

There are numerous podcasts and much research regarding SEL and it's many facets. In this Iowa based podcast called The Freedom Factor, Dr. James Lindsay details the dangers of CASEL and SEL and gives a warning to Iowa Parents and Legislators.

This article will also focus on SEL at a high level and on CASEL. The CASEL framework has been adopted by most states. How did this happen? In 2016 CASEL launched 'The Collaborating States Initiative' to "guide supportive legislation and create conditions that support implementation." You can see Iowa's adoption here.

The SEL framework has been adopted by the Iowa Department of Education and has already been implemented in many districts throughout Iowa. Is your district one of them?

WHAT IS SEL? SEL was originally designed to help at risk students who were struggling. These students would receive one-on-one support/training with a trained counselor in a controlled setting. We all want to see students succeed and get the help they need and this is where social emotional learning can be successful.

WHAT IT HAS BECOME: Now, social and emotional education is administered and delivered to ALL students.

ALL students are now treated and surveyed as if they are "at risk".

These SEL surveys and 'lessons' take place in an uncontrolled setting (a classroom) by teachers who are not trained counselors.



All students are now identified as "at risk" needing social and emotional training and the SEL lessons are weaved into every subject. This makes it virtually impossible to simply 'opt out' of SEL instruction.

In addition, whose definition of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs are the acceptable and correct answers to these SEL surveys: CASEL's? The values of the school or the teacher? What about the values and beliefs of the student's family or religious community? What happens when these aren't in alignment?

SEL can contradict or preempt emotional development that has begun at home and our kids are expected to passively accept the new societal values and new personality character traits which many view as confusing and harmful. Many of these beliefs, values and ideologies are being pushed in what's now being called the current Culture War.


In 2019 CASEL quietly adopted Transformative SEL - the new CRT?

You may be familiar with the many videos that have leaked over the past two years of CRT in schools. Administrators have made statements that parents are questioning Critical Race Theory (CRT) so they are now simply referring to it as equity or SEL.

A local video was released of five Des Moines Metro Area administrators who admitted their disregard in adhering to HF802 - the law adopted July 2021 preventing divisive concepts from being taught in Iowa public schools. SEL seems to have become another avenue to bring in these critical theories.

SEL seems to be another avenue to bringing CRT into the classroom.

“Transformative SEL” is a process whereby young people and adults build strong, respectful, and lasting, relationships that facilitate co-learning to critically examine root causes of inequity, and to develop collaborative solutions that lead to personal, community, and societal well-being." CASEL

Transformative SEL promotes "social justice.

CASEL article titled: Rising Up Together:

This form of SEL is aimed at redistributing power to more fully engage young people and adults in working toward just and equitable schools and communities. It emphasizes the development of identity, agency, belonging, curiosity, and collaborative problem-solving within the CASEL framework.

Other articles supporting SEL as an equity and social justice program:

SEL programs are largely shaped by white, neoliberal ideologies but also by calls for reform and transformation. To avoid the social reproduction of inequities and injustices yet still foster SEL, we propose a concerted effort to re-envision SEL from a lens oriented toward social justice."


Students are surveyed about social and emotional attitudes and beliefs. When it comes to social and emotional topics, which are subjective, what is truly being measured, what is the 'correct' response to these questions? To learn more about the cycle of data collection visit the Courage Is A Habit website.

In 2021, an Iowa parent received communication that an SEL survey was going to be administered to students at their school in Central Iowa. She reached out to the school principal and asked to see a copy of the survey questions. She received the following response from the principal: “Unfortunately, I don't have access to the questions as the survey is administered through a company called Panorama.” (Keep in mind this was shortly after Merrick Garland sent out the memo stating parents who speak at school board meetings could be classified as domestic terrorists.)

This past fall, NO communication was sent notifying parents of the administration of another SEL survey to their children. She reached out to the district again and they indicated that parents weren't notified, but instructed her to check with the building principal. She contacted the principal and he apologized for not communicating and said, “Hopefully students know this was an optional survey to take. They did not have to take it if they wished not to.” Parents had no opportunity to opt their children out of the survey. They didn't even know it was being administered.

The question we should be asking is, "Why is data needed on our children's beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that include “right and wrong” answers." Below is a sample an Indiana teacher shared of the data collected on the SEL survey in her district and how it was used.

Based on the scores, her school did interventions WITHOUT parental consent.

To continue this fight for freedom we rely on the generosity of patriots like you. For as little as the cost of a cup of coffee every month, you can help us to continue our mission to protect the freedoms of Iowans and the innocence of Iowa's children.


Discussions and lessons about SEL topics are engrained in all subjects. The CASEL case study article "Rising Up Together" instructs teachers on how to integrate SEL into subjects as well as how to weave in the "Transformative" SEL components. This is not only time taken away from learning academic content, it's an attempt to open our children's developing minds to critical theories and ideologies which may be in direct conflict with family and community's beliefs and values.

To hear an example of what this looks like in a classroom setting - go to minute 48 of James Lindsay's talk at Parents Unite, he demonstrates how this technique might be used in an elementary school math class.


Many of the research studies showing the success of SEL seem to be biased and include individuals and/or companies with ties to CASEL.

Courage is a Habit, which has no ties to CASEL, has researched the performance results in the Chicago Public Schools who was one of the first districts to adopt SEL 10 years ago. They found a drastic DECREASE in student performance and graduation rates after the implementation of SEL.


The Iowa Department of Education has based their SEL framework and adoption on CASEL. CASEL's program, principles, and philosophy include Transformational SEL, social justice, power, privilege, as well as surveying your child and collecting data. Data that you, as a parent, do not have the ability to access. CASEL may not be a organization that the Iowa Department of Education should be adopting as a state standard.


  1. KNOW WHAT IS CURRENTLY IN PLACE IN YOUR DISTRICT. Ask your school and district if they have implemented an SEL program.

    • If your district is using an SEL program, find out what program they are using and research it (not all SEL programs are created the same). Explore programs that do not collect data and do not have ties to the global initiative or to CASEL; for example Second Step-Elementary is tied to CASEL, in contrast The Positivity Project is a neutral SEL program that does NOT survey students or collect student data or contain political, racial or gender "critical theories".

    • Find out if surveys are being given.

    • If you don’t want your child to participate OPT OUT of the surveys. An opt out form to submit to your school or a Parental Consent Letter.

2. Let your school board, the Iowa Department of Education, and legislators know your concerns about SEL and/or Surveys and data collection. Surveys on your children should be OPT IN and parental permission should be required in order for a survey to be administered. There is a law that protects parents and student data, - SEL and Conditions in Learning Surveys should be included.

3. The following states have already enacted bills into law in support of SEL: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Texas, and Washington. Several more states are proposing similar legislation. If laws are enacted around SEL, it can be assumed it will be almost impossible to remove. Talk to your legislators and ensure Iowa does not enact legislation for SEL content in schools.

To continue this fight for freedom we rely on the generosity of patriots like you. For as little as the cost of a cup of coffee every month, you can help us to continue our mission to protect the freedoms of Iowans and the innocence of Iowa's children.

Continue the Conversation at: Iowa Parents United



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