Iowa may limit gender identity, sexual orientation teachings

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa lawmakers have passed a sweeping education bill limiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, requiring school administrators to notify parents if a student asks to use a new name or pronouns, and removing books depicting sex acts.

The Senate approved the bill Wednesday night and the House passed it Thursday, the Des Moines Register reported. It now goes to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds for her signature.

“Parents are the ultimate decisionmakers for their children. This legislation defines parents’ rights in law, requires transparency, and sets boundaries to protect Iowa’s children from woke indoctrination,” Reynolds said in an emailed statement to the Register. “I will always fight for Iowa’s parents as they know what is best for their children.”

Instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation is banned in kindergarten through sixth grade. That provision, along with the requirement to notify parents if a student asks the school to use new pronouns, would take effect July 1. The ban on books depicting sex acts would be effective Jan. 1.

The bill would codify that parents have the “fundamental, constitutionally protected right” to make decisions for children under the age of 18.

“It is wrong for schools to keep secrets from parents about their kids. It is wrong to push political agendas in the classroom. And it is wrong to put pornography in front of children,” Republican Rep. Skyler Wheeler said.

If a teacher or administrator fails to inform parents when a student asks to use new pronouns, or if a school employee withholds information from parents about a student’s gender identity, the teacher or the school district could be disciplined by the board of educational examiners.

Democrats say the required parental notification of a pronoun change could threaten the safety of some transgender kids, if their families are not supportive.

“You want parents’ rights, but only when it is in things you believe in,” said Rep. Sue Cahill. “I’ve said it before and I’ll ask it again: Where are my rights? Where are the rights of other parents who don’t agree with you?”

The provision banning books with descriptions or visual depictions of sex acts has an exception for religious books, including the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. The bill also exempts materials for human growth and development classes.

The Iowa Department of Education and the Board of Educational Examiners would be responsible for disciplining superintendents or employees if a school refuses to remove a book that contains sex acts.

“I’m not sure what the perfect solution is to this,” House Speaker Pat Grassley said. “We felt that this was the best way to approach it, so that way it wasn’t an individual picking of books.”

Democrats said the ban amounts to censorship.

“The majority party wishes to ban some of the greatest literary works of all time, because it offends or challenges their world view,” Sen. Molly Donahue said.

Republican Sen. Brad Zaun said the law is not a book ban since parents can still choose which books their kids can read outside of school.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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