DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa teachers will be banned from raising gender identity and sexual orientation issues with students through grade six, and all books depicting sex acts will be removed from school libraries, under a bill Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Friday.
The new law is among similar measures that have been approved in other Republican-dominated statehouses around the country. As with many of those proposals, Iowa Republicans framed their action as a commonsense effort to ensure that parents can oversee what their children are learning in school and that teachers not delve into topics such as gender and sexuality.
Despite the opposition of all Democratic legislators, Republicans who hold large majorities in Iowa's state House and Senate approved the measure in April and there was little doubt that Reynolds would sign it; she had made issues related to gender identity and sexuality a focal point of her legislative agenda this year.
“This legislative session, we secured transformational education reform that puts parents in the driver’s seat, eliminates burdensome regulations on public schools, provides flexibility to raise teacher salaries, and empowers teachers to prepare our kids for their future," Reynolds said in a statement.
Under the new law, school administrators also would be required to notify parents if students asked to change their pronouns or names. Religious texts will be exempt from the library ban on books depicting sex acts.
Democrats and LGBTQ groups argued that the restrictions would hurt children by limiting their ability to be open with teachers about gender and sexuality issues and to see their lives reflected in books and other curriculum.
The law's passage was not a surprise, said Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy at the LGBTQ equality group One Iowa. “But we are still very disappointed by it.”
“Like many other pieces of her agenda, this legislation punches down on a vulnerable group of kids, and it benefits no one,” Crow said of Reynolds.
The law also requires schools to post online a list of books in libraries, along with instructions for parents on how to review them and classroom instructional material, and to request that any material be removed. Schools would need parental approval before they could give surveys to students related to numerous topics, including mental health issues, sex and political affiliation.
Earlier this year, Reynolds signed two bills into law restricting the restrooms transgender students can use and banning gender-affirming medical care, such as puberty blockers, for people younger than 18. Last year, Reynolds signed a Republican-backed measure that prohibits transgender females from participating in girls high school and women's college athletics. Like the newest law, both measures echo bills passed by Republican states around the country.