DES MOINES, IOWA — The discussion of banning books continued at the Iowa Statehouse on Monday evening.
Before the House Government Oversight committee met, a group of parents not happy with the public input on the topic spoke with Democratic lawmakers.
“You are telling a child that there is something wrong with them, that they don’t belong, that something about them is unacceptable to show the world,” said Jamie Seitz, a DMPS parent, “…And that is not okay. Not one parent in here or one parent on the republican side or one parent on the Moms for Liberty wants their kids to feel like they don’t belong in their community or their school.”
“That’s why I think books shouldn’t be banned because so we can learn new things. I think parents could learn new things too,” said a third-grade girl.
The frustrations stem from the governor’s bill that would require a challenged book in one school district to go on a list that would need parental permission to check out from a library at any public school library – not just the school district where it was originally challenged.
The Iowa Association of School Boards, at the beginning of the committee meeting, outlined what the state’s policy is on book removal.
Parents, guardians and taxpayers with no kids in the district can file a challenge. That happens by filling out a from provided by the school district. Each district has a reconsideration committee that is made up of educators and community members. The committee sends a recommendation to the superintendent, who then appeals it to the school board. If a member of the public does not like the appeal, then they can appeal the decision to the state board of education.
“The courts have found that a student’s right to access books and other materials is established by the First Amendment and so these decisions require the applications of that three-pronged test which is focused on not only on the explicit materials being considered, in the context of the broader work as a whole and local community standards of morality,” said Lisa Bartusek, the Executive Director of the Iowa Association of School Boards
Lawmakers questioned school district leadership who were represented at the committee: Carlisle, Carroll, Johnston, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Waukee school districts. One explicit image was passed around from a book available in some of those districts’ libraries, with school leaders asked about their rationale on keeping or removing the book.
“I think an example if you displayed a picture of a woman with her breasts exposed or a young boy with his penis exposed. That in it of itself you would say ‘well that surely strikes me as obscene’. But those depictions are in murals in the rotunda, and again I’m not equating the two. But the context matters,” said Jeff Hicks, the School Board President of West Des Moines Community Schools.
If the governor’s sweeping education bill will get passed this session, it will have to survive through the first funnel period at the end of next week.