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Rep. Steve Holt’s perspective on Rep. Sandy Salmon’s amendment addressing obscene materials and porn in school libraries:

Update & Perspective: School Transparency; Why I did not support Representative Salmon’s Amendment to Prosecute Teachers

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First of all, Iowa code already allows teachers to be charged for distribution of pornographic or obscene material, per Iowa Code Chapter 728. Educators do not get a pass in code for distributing pornographic or obscene materials.

The problem may be that many are not aware of this fact, plus there is likely a strong reluctance to prosecute. Rep. Salmon’s amendment does not advance the cause or improve the situation, since prosecution can already take place.

Additionally, the amendment was not properly vetted, most of the caucus saw it for the first time today, and it has not been through the committee process that is so necessary and important in identifying unintended consequences and evaluating effectiveness.

Finally, Representative Salmon‘s amendment was problematic in a number of ways. Allowing any parent to bring a legal action against a teacher for anything they deem inappropriate, absent any guardrails or legal standards, is unworkable and untenable for educators, and would have had a chilling effect on the teaching profession, while not accomplishing the objective. The initiatives in her amendment created the possibility of all sorts of unintended consequences that we never had the opportunity to explore due to its late arrival on a budget bill. For all these reasons, this amendment was voted down decisively on the floor.

One of the issues we need to explore, which Representative Salmon’s amendment would not have addressed, is the perspective we began hearing today from County Attorneys as we discussed this issue, that the current language in Code Section 728 is too broad for them to be able to prosecute teachers for the use of pornographic or obscene materials. We will listen to these concerns, and look to make changes as necessary once this has been explored.

I appreciate and value Representative Salmon‘s passion and principle, but her amendment was unworkable, did not get properly vetted, did not belong on a budget bill, and would not have been effective.

The transparency bill we passed today, with penalties for noncompliance, is a huge step forward, as we fight for greater parental choice and against the indoctrination of our children.

The answer to the horrific indoctrination happening in some of our public schools is not to make life miserable for our great educators that are doing it right. The solution is multi-faceted: school board elections, greater transparency (legislation passed today), reforming the Board of Educational Examiners (legislation passed last week), ever-increasing pressure from parents and fellow educators to educate not indoctrinate, greater parental involvement, strong penalties for lawbreakers through the BOEE (legislation passed last week, perhaps more to come next session), and most importantly, SCHOOL CHOICE.

I hope that parents will continue to be vigilant and tell us what they are seeing in their districts as we work to address this issue.

Rep. Jeff Shipley’s response:

I’m extremely saddened to do this, but when leaders obfuscate and muddle issues, it threatens the integrity of the entire State of Iowa.

I find Rep. Holt’s statements on Rep. Salmon’s amendment H8276, addressing obscene materials in schools, to be highly questionable.

I share this so every Iowan can make up their own mind for themselves on the proper letter and spirit of Iowa law.

Protecting the innocence of our children is too important to avoid an uncomfortable discussion.

Rep. Holt claims, “Educators do not get a pass in code for distributing pornographic or obscene materials.”

This is seriously misleading for several reasons. Iowa code chapter 728 addresses obscenity and section 7 reads thusly:

“Nothing in this chapter prohibits the use of appropriate material for educational purposes in any accredited school, or any public library, or in any educational program in which the minor is participating. Nothing in this chapter prohibits the attendance of minors at an exhibition or display of art works or the use of any materials in any public library.”

That is a pretty broad exemption to say the least. And it’s a redundant and unnecessary exemption considering the definition of ‘obscene material’ in 728.1 already omits anything that has scientific, literary, artistic, or political value.

Rep. Salmon’s amendment offered much needed clarity to the education exemption of 728.7, by updating a definition of ‘obscene material’ and ‘hardcore pornography,’ and ensuring those are not considered ‘appropriate material’ in educational institutions.

I find the clarity provided by the Salmon amendment to be sorely needed, and would have provided immediate relief to parents wishing to protect the mental health of their children.

Rep. Holt further complains that Sandy’s amendment did not go through the committee process to be properly vetted.

I find this complaint to be wholly disingenuous because legislative leadership denied the opportunity for a committee hearing on this proposal. So that can hardly be blamed on Sandy, nor does it excuse a legislator for failing to see the immense value of the amendment as written.

Rep. Holt concludes, “Finally, Representative Salmon‘s amendment was problematic in a number of ways. Allowing any parent to bring a legal action against a teacher for anything they deem inappropriate, absent any guardrails or legal standards, is unworkable and untenable for educators, and would have had a chilling effect on the teaching profession, while not accomplishing the objective.”

I strongly disagree with this assessment because the definition of ‘hardcore pornography’ provided by amendment H8276 is clear and more precise than existing law.

Rep. Holt adopts the language and rhetoric of the teachers union by insinuating that parents’ concerns are over-reactive, and generally dismissive of the urgency in addressing hardcore pornographic and obscene materials being distributed in schools.

When you adopt the language and rhetoric of those who are supplying these obscene materials to minors, you essentially surrender the battlefield before the fight begins.

The last important point of amendment H8276 is that it waives immunity from lawsuits against the state. Currently, the qualified immunity statute of 669.14A would likely provide legal immunity from any district employee distributing obscene or questionable material to minors.

Rep. Holt fails to discuss the applicability of the qualified immunity provision, and that seems to be a massive oversight in his overall analysis.

There is much more I could say about Rep. Holt’s remarks on this topic and why I feel they’re insufficient, but I am thankful he identifies SCHOOL CHOICE policy as the best solution to this issue.

I also recognize the progress Rep. Holt mentions on reforming the Board of Education Examiners (HF 2567), but that was more reactive to ensuring educators engaged in sexual misconduct and salacious acts aren’t able to repeat their offenses.

The sad thing though that I wish more legislators realize, when they vote to pass budget bills without seriously addressing these topics, they become complicit in allowing the very evil they claim they are fighting against.

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing, and so far, the Iowa Legislature has done nothing to protect school kids from the vile and obscene, pornographic and sexually explicit materials flooding our public schools.

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