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On Monday, superintendents and school board presidents from six Iowa school districts appeared before the House Oversight Committee. Due to time considerations and political theatrics from Democrats, the committee only heard from four of the districts.

Interestingly, Democrats continued their impressive streak of wrongness. Since the start of the 2021 legislative session, Democrats have loudly and enthusiastically announced their moral certainty on the effectiveness of masks in stopping COVID, the recklessness in kids returning to classrooms, and now on the age-appropriateness of graphic sexual images in books in schools.

Members of the committee questioned the use of the book Gender Queer.  Gender Queer is a graphic novel about gender identity and sexual orientation written to relate to others who are struggling with gender identity. The book also explores the use of pronouns and hormone-blocking therapies.

It contains graphic illustrations of oral sex.

The Superintendent from Waukee removed Gender Queer from school libraries. Officials from Carlisle and West Des Moines kept the book.

The school board president from West Des Moines indicated that taking issue with one image on one page from the book doesn’t take the entirety of the book into context. He used murals in the State Capitol that depict the exposed breasts of a woman and the exposed penis of a man as an example of something that could be considered obscene to some. To be clear, the State Capitol does not display a mural of oral sex.

That distinction seems to have been lost on those defending the graphic images in Gender Queer.

Republican members of the committee questioned school officials as to whether or not it was possible to stock books that explore the issues lesbian, gay, or trans students experience without those books containing graphic sexual illustrations. Officials avoided a direct answer. Republicans also questioned officials from Johnston as to why they allowed a middle school yearbook editorial from a student (approved by the school) to attack a local parent by name and label her a racist, a homophobe, and a Nazi. The superintendent from Johnston defended the editorial saying the yearbook was a student-run endeavor.

Democrats on the committee insisted that parents who object to books like those described above have no right to limit what other children read. After all, if Republicans claim to be about parent choice, they should not limit what other parents choose as necessary educational material in schools.

Republicans on the committee did not argue that parents should be prevented from exposing their children to this material. GOP members are arguing that the material is age-inappropriate and therefore should not be in taxpayer-funded schools. If a parent wants to go on Amazon and buy a book and read it with their child while discussing and exploring the issues and themes in the book, that is their right as a parent. But taxpayers should not be subsidizing what is clearly sexually explicit material.

Author: John Wills


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