Last week I offered an amendment regarding pornographic material in schools.
A few months ago I wrote about this issue shortly after social media reports erupted with news of parents finding pornographic materials in both curriculum and school libraries. Surveys conducted after that time revealed these materials were in schools all over the state. Likely your school has these materials. Parents used the protocols many schools have in place to have a book reviewed, reconsidered and removed. (The bill listed below makes these protocols a requirement.) They also went through the appeals processes to administrators and school boards but most of the time with no success in having those materials removed.
Instead they have been surprised at the pushback they have received from school boards, administrators and teachers, defending the pornographic content of these materials. I cannot write the text of what we see in these materials as it is not fit to print, but if a school official, teacher, or parent wants to know I can send a list of materials with excerpts to help you investigate for yourself at your school and protect your kids.
Some parents went to county attorneys to see if they could file a complaint regarding violation of Iowa’s obscenity laws regarding pornographic materials in school. County attorneys have said that they cannot move forward because Iowa’s obscenity laws are too vague and need to be clarified regarding schools because schools have a special exemption. I would agree; the law is not clear.
The amendment I offered made those clarifications. It makes clear the same criminal action applies to disseminate pornography to a minor in a K-12 school as it would to disseminate it to them outside the school – which is a serious misdemeanor for obscene material and an aggravated misdemeanor for hard-core pornography.
It allows for a parent to bring a civil lawsuit against a school that knowingly allows a minor access to pornography both for injunctive relief (meaning the judge can order the pornographic material removed from the school) and damages. If county attorneys don’t prosecute, parents have this option. This puts parents in the driver seat.
An administrator or teacher found in criminal violation would lose their license and the school would have a civil penalty assessed against it. The penalty would be dropped as soon as the pornographic material is removed from the school. An administrator or teacher found guilty of violating a court injunction would have their license suspended.
The vast majority of our teachers do a great job. This amendment targets the few bad actors we have in our schools and places no further burden on the rest of our teachers. I am sure there are many school officials unaware of the pornographic content in some of their materials and I’m sure if they knew it, they would remove them from their schools. I can send a list to any school board member, administrator or teacher who wants to know so that they can make sure their school doesn’t have these materials.
Disseminating pornographic material to a minor has been a crime on Iowa’s books for decades. Just a few years ago we made it a crime for parents to give their children pornographic material. So right now the law is vague enough that, for all practical purposes, no one can give minors pornographic material unless they are in a school! And if they are in a school it is nearly impossible to win a case so for all practical purposes, schools are a free-for-all where pornographic material is concerned. Thelaw is so vague that there is, practically speaking, no law against it. This is appalling and unconscionable.
No question the state must protect our kids by putting sufficient and effective laws in place to do that. It should not matter your occupation or where you are: everyone should be required to protect children against pornography! Our children should be able to enjoy the equal protection of the law from everyone!
We need to remember pornography fuels a variety of sexual harassment and sexual crimes, including sexual assault and sex trafficking, creating victims in its wake. It damages children and introduces struggles and addictions families must deal with. Porn actually changes the physical functioning of the brain, causing addiction. It also grooms children and makes them prey to sexual exploitation.
I’ve heard it said that it’s the parents’ job, not the government’s, to protect their kids as a reason not to put criminal penalties or a pathway for a lawsuit in place. So why do we bother with laws prohibiting minors from getting tobacco, alcohol, or drugs? Why don’t we just leave it up to the parents? Because parents need government to do its job to put effective and sufficient laws in place to protect kids. That’s its job. It’s a partnership between parents and government. Pornography is every bit as dangerous and lethal as tobacco, alcohol, and drugs yet are we going to allow it at the very place kids spend most of their day? Taxpayers don’t provide tobacco, alcohol, and drugs to the kids. Why should the taxpayer be providing pornographic materials to them in their schools?
And I’ve heard it said that kids are going to see this stuff anyway, so what we do won’t help much. For sure, a law change won’t solve the whole problem, but good laws need to be put in place. We’re not going to just surrender our kids…that is absolutely shocking and reprehensible.
I’ve also heard it said that only a very small percentage of school personnel are involved in giving kids pornographic material as a reason not to criminalize it. Well only a very small percentage of citizens commit murder or burglary yet those activities are criminalized.
If we don’t take more action, here is what we will be allowing to stay in our schools, realistically speaking: sexually explicit and graphic detail of heterosexual and homosexual sex acts, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, rape, masturbation, obscene language, and more.
We are at a watershed moment: we need to protect our kids from pornography in the place where they should never get it, but are getting it.We need effective and sufficient laws with teeth to provide the tools needed to make a difference. Leaving decisions in the hands of bureaucrats will not be sufficient or effective enough in helping parents to fully protect their kids. Bureaucrats make decisions behind closed doors, decide how much explanation they want to give you, and are unaccountable to the people. We need parents to be able to take action to file a complaint on criminal charges and to be able to file lawsuits that actually stand a chance of winning in order to protect their kids and all the other kids in their school. Criminal and civil actions are very public and shine the light on everything, making it easier to hold those involved to account.
Pornography is an equal opportunity destroyer! And it calls for an equally strong response from government!