Students and parents in Iowa will see big changes in classrooms this year after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a major education bill into law over the summer.
Reynolds, a Republican, staked his re-election on “parental rights” and rallied the Republican-led Congress to approve a plan to provide state-funded private school tuition to all Iowa students.
Since then, Republican lawmakers have focused on removing textbooks they deemed “age-appropriate” and banning instruction on LGBTQ topics in elementary schools.
Transgender students will see some of the biggest changes this year, including a new law that limits which toilets they can use and a requirement to notify parents if a student requests to use a different pronoun. .
As part of their push for parental rights, lawmakers also passed legislation that:
- Notify parents sooner if a student is violent or threatening.
- Student surveys require parental consent.
- And get more parents involved on the Iowa Board of Teacher Licensing.
“This Congress,” Reynolds said, “we will put parents in the driver’s seat, end burdensome regulations on public schools, give teachers the flexibility to raise salaries, and give teachers the power to prepare their children for the future.” We have secured a transformative educational reform that will give He signed and enacted several education bills. “Education is a great equalizer, and everyone involved – parents, educators and children – deserves an environment in which they can thrive.”
As you prepare for the start of the new school year, here are some of the big changes to expect in Iowa classrooms this year.
These new laws apply to public, private and charter schools.
There are no textbooks containing sexual acts in Iowa schools
A new law in Iowa bans textbooks that contain descriptions or visual depictions of sexual acts. Iowa law specifically defines sexual intercourse as any list of explicit acts between two or more people.
But Iowa education experts warn that the law will apply more broadly and require the removal of more books, including some classic works of literature.
The Urbandale Community School District has a list of 64 books that it believes will be banned, including classics such as “The Color Purple,” “Ulysses,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The Norwalk Community School District also has a list of 64 prohibited books, including What Was Stonewall? “Kite Runner” and “Mama’s Love Me”.
LGBTQ-related instruction is not provided in elementary schools
Under the new law, teachers in Iowa cannot offer “any program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion or instruction” regarding gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through sixth grade.
The Iowa Department of Education has not issued guidance on whether books with LGBTQ characters need to be removed.
A Republican lawmaker who led the passage of the law said he believes it bans books with gay or transgender characters for the grade level.
Norwalk’s list includes several books about LGBTQ people and communities, including “Who Was Harvey Milk?” He is a politician, advocate for gay rights and the Gay Marriage FAQ, and was the first gay public official to be elected to office in California.
New reporting requirements for school violence and intimidation
Administrators are now required to notify a student’s parents within 24 hours if a student is threatening or violent in school. Schools are also required to notify parents of any student who has been threatened or injured within the same period.
School districts should also adopt policies to discipline students who engage in violence or make threats of violence. Each school district can determine the details of its disciplinary policy, as long as it has the option of removing students from the classroom, suspending them, or expelling them.
Parents Added to Iowa Board to Obtain Teaching Licensure
The Board of Educational Review creates and regulates standards for teachers in Iowa. Starting this year, some of the board will include parents from Iowa who have never been teachers.
The new law added four members to the 13-member board of directors who “have shown interest in education but have never held a practicing license.” Two of these members must be parents of registered students and one must be a current or former school board member.
Governor Kim Reynolds appointed eight members to the board.
Parental Consent to Participate in Student Surveys
More permits are expected to be issued this year. The new law will require schools to ask for parental consent before students can take surveys on campus.
Parents should seek written consent before children undergo school surveys regarding their mental, emotional, or physical health, or surveys that ask about political affiliation, sexual behavior, misconduct, religion, or family income. You can
New Restrictions on Pronouns and Toilets for Transgender Students
Iowa transgender students will notice even more changes than other students.
Starting this school year, schools must notify parents if students wish to use new gender-affirming pronouns or new names.
The law was enacted in response to the Limmer Community School District’s controversial policy allowing 7th grade students to request the use of new pronouns at school without parental notice or consent.
Another law, which came into effect near the end of last year, bans transgender individuals from using school restrooms that match their gender identity. Instead, students must use the toilet that matches their gender at birth. Alternatively, parents may require students to use special facilities such as single-person toilets.
Damian Thompson, public policy director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools, said the law is harmful to the social, emotional, mental and physical health of transgender students.
“Whether it’s curricula censorship, book banning, or common sense (toilet) facility restrictions, it’s been in law for almost 20 years, and there’s never been a documented problem in Iowa. But these attacks on students will be irreversible,” said Thompson, “and it’s hurting Iowa schools, known as safe and inclusive places where everyone can learn.”
Stephen Gruber-Mill contributed to the report.