(CTN News) – An Iowa law that prohibits some books from school libraries and teachers from addressing LGBTQ+ concerns was partially halted on Friday by a federal judge.
Hundreds of books had already been removed from Iowa schools before the law was to take effect on January 1st, but its enforcement has been halted by Judge Stephen Locher’s preliminary injunction.
Early in 2023, the Republican-led legislature and GOP governor Kim Reynolds passed a bill that prohibits teachers from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation with pupils in grades K-6 and removes materials that show sex activities from school libraries and classrooms. Both of those clauses were obstructed by Locher.
According to the court, the book prohibition is “incredibly broad” and has led to the removal of many prize-winning novels, history books, classics, and “even books designed to help students avoid being victimized by sexual assault.” According to him, that provision of the law does not seem to adhere to the free expression standards set out by the Constitution.
Locher ruled that the provision prohibiting primary school students from discussing “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” was “wildly overbroad” in its current form.
The decision left Reynolds “extremely disappointed,” she stated in a statement.
Reynolds firmly stated that lessons about gender identity and sexual orientation should not be taught to students in grades kindergarten through sixth. Books with explicit sexual content, as defined by Iowa law, have no place in a school library, that much is certain. It is absurd that we are even debating these points.
But teachers were really pleased with the ruling.
“When education professionals return to work next week, they can do what they do best: take great care of all their students without fear of reprisal,” stated Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association.
Since the plaintiffs lacked standing, the judge upheld the rule that school administrators inform parents whenever their child requests a change in pronouns or name.
A number of states have recently passed legislation along similar lines, with Iowa being no exception. These bills, which have Republican support, aim to limit access to school restrooms, outlaw treatments like puberty blockers for transgender youngsters, and outlaw discussions of gender and sexual orientation. A number of them have been challenged in court.
This Iowa legislation was challenged in two separate lawsuits. The seven students are represented by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, while one is on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools. The second one is a collaboration between four writers, Penguin Random House, the Iowa State Education Association, and the publisher.
The first case contends that the law infringes upon the free expression and equal protection rights of educators and students, rendering it unlawful. The second one challenges the legislation on the grounds that it contravenes the First and fourteenth amendments; it focuses narrowly on the book bans.
Both sides’ attorneys have argued that the statute is too vague and unhelpful.
School administrators were implementing the book ban too liberally, according to Daniel Johnston of the Iowa attorney general’s office, who argued at a hearing on December 22.
Instead of concentrating on the concept of a sex act, Johnston stated that teachers should search for language or pictures that satisfy Iowa’s definition of a sex act when choosing whether to remove books.