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Last month, the State Board of Education heard proposed rulemaking for Senate File 496. This bill deals with ensuring books and materials in schools are age-appropriate, ensuring gender identity and sexual orientation instruction in K-6 does not occur, along with spelling out certain rights of parents related to their child’s education. Public hearings for the proposed rules will be January 3rd and 4th.

The bill is very clear on what is not age-appropriate. Material with descriptions or visual depictions of sex are not age-appropriate. Most legislators were stunned to learn over the last year that material containing graphic depictions of sex acts were available in school libraries and were part of class reading lists – especially in the Des Moines Metro.

Confusion over what is covered by SF 496 appears to be deliberate in some cases as ploy to further left-wing political agendas.  A simple mention of sex in a book is not covered by the law as any clear reading of the bill indicates. Rules now also state that “a reference or mention of a sex act in a way that does not describe or visually depict a sex act as defined in that section is not included in the previous sentence.” This, of course, makes sense. It is the only logical conclusion if one were to read the bill. Hopefully, with this rule, district leaders can see what House Republicans have been saying all along. While it remains to be seen if certain districts will follow the law as it was written, House Republicans are hopeful. If anyone needs a reminder as to what the definition of a sex act is, the new rule repeats Iowa Code section 702.17.

Some school district leaders were also spun up about the enforcement piece of the law. The Department may exercise enforcement discretion if any violation is voluntarily and permanently corrected prior to the department making a determination of a violation. For library programs that serve multiple age ranges, the district must have reasonable physical, administrative, and technological controls in place to ensure the materials are age-appropriate based on their age and grade. This isn’t a “gotcha” game. Districts must comply, of course, but they are given time to comply.

Lastly, when it comes to letting parents know that their child wants to transition to a different gender at school in secret. Yes, a parent should know that information. Additionally, rules solidified what House Republicans have been saying about nicknames. Wanting to be called “Bill” instead of “William” does not mean the parents need to be called or that they need to give written permission. That example obviously does not involve a request to transition to a different gender. Again, a simple application of common sense and clear reading of the law could have alleviated any confusion.

I hope school districts feel better now that the Department is saying exactly what House Republicans have been saying since the bill was going through the legislative process last spring: age-appropriate material didn’t use to be controversial, nor did parents being informed of their own child’s behavior at school.

There is no good reason schools, instead of parents, should be instructing children on topics such as gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-6.  There is no reason a child should need to look at or read incredibly graphic material that cannot be shown on TV or read aloud at school board meetings. There is also no reason for school districts in the Des Moines Metro to pull political stunts and remove books that don’t meet the age-appropriate standards of the law.

Author: Taylor Collins


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