NEWTON, Iowa (WHO) — Governor Kim Reynolds targeted public education this session and hit it with multiple shots. From funding to curriculum to the books on the shelves. So it wasn’t surprising to see some of the brightest products of our public schools give her some peaceful feedback when they got the chance.

At the Governor’s Scholar Program on Sunday, Reynolds honored 422 of the highest-achieving students in the state. She greeted them with a handshake and posed for a picture.

Marin Pettigrew of Newton attends Governor’s Scholar Program, wearing a t-shirt that states “Public Money for Public Schools.”

One of those students was Newton senior, Leo Friedman, who, along with his classmate, Marin Pettigrew, decided to wear Raygun t-shirts to send a subtle message to Reynolds.

Hers read “Public Money For Public Schools.” His read, “I Read Banned Books.”

Leo walks the walk. He’s an avid reader living between mountains of books at his parents’ home in Newton. He said he wanted to make a statement without disrespecting the honor of the award — and even Governor Reynolds admitted he had the right to do that (despite the very pained look on her face in the photos with Friedman and Pettigrew).

Leo and his parents have had plenty of feedback this week and said they’ve heard from many people this week who appreciate his stand against banning books in schools.

“I got messages from people across the state,” said his mother, Robyn, “from people I went to college with, from teachers in the local area as well as outside of here — same messages, about how brave that was and how much they appreciated that he was willing to do something like that.”

Leo Friedman of Newton attends Governor’s Scholar Program, wearing a t-shirt that states “I Read Banned Books.”

Leo said he thinks America’s latest rash of book banning is particularly alarming (given its focus on LGBTQ+ issues) and counter-productive.

“I think keeping knowledge away from anyone stops us from reaching our full potential as students and we should be allowed to make what we will out of anything out there and we shouldn’t be scared of certain material because of what it might do to us.”

Ironically, Leo Friedman is actually planning to study math at the prestigious Pomona College in California in the fall.