A recent ruling by a federal judge in Iowa has halted the enforcement of a state law designed to restrict sexually explicit books in schools and limit the teaching of gender ideology to elementary students.
Judge Stephen Locher, appointed by President Joe Biden, described the Iowa law, backed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, as “unreasonable” and “puritanical.” However, Locher upheld a part of the law that mandates schools to inform parents if their child uses pronouns differing from their biological sex.
“It requires the wholesale removal of every book containing a description or visual depiction of a ‘sex act,’ regardless of context,” Locher said, as reported by The New York Times. “The underlying message is that there is no redeeming value to any such book even if it is a work of history, self-help guide, award-winning novel or other piece of serious literature. In effect, the Legislature has imposed a puritanical ‘pall of orthodoxy’ over school libraries.”
Reynolds expressed her disappointment with the decision.
“Instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation has no place in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms. And there should be no question that books containing sexually explicit content — as clearly defined in Iowa law — do not belong in a school library for children,” she said in a statement. Reynolds also questioned the societal trend of over-sexualizing young children, vowing to continue her efforts to protect their innocence.
The challenged law, Senate File 496, was opposed by a coalition that included publisher Penguin Random House and authors John Green and Jodi Picoult. The law’s intent was to remove gender ideology from the curriculum for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“A school district shall not provide any program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion, or instruction relating to gender identity or sexual orientation to students in kindergarten through grade six,” the law states.
Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, supported Locher’s 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,” he said.
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, expressing deep disappointment with the court’s decision, pledged to continue the legal battle.
“Sexually explicit books do not belong in our elementary-school libraries or classrooms. Not only is it common sense, it’s the law. As Attorney General, I will keep on fighting to protect families, enforce the law, and keep inappropriate books out of the hands of children in school,” she said.
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