Iowa governor signs bill restricting lessons on gender identity, sexual orientation in schools

(The Hill) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a bill into law on Friday that restricts lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation in schools from kindergarten through sixth grade. 

Reynolds announced her signature on the bill and a few others relating to education in a release, calling education the “great equalizer” and saying that everyone involved in education — parents, teachers and students — should have an environment to “thrive.” 

“This legislative session, we secured transformational education reform that puts parents in the driver’s seat, eliminates burdensome regulations on public schools, provides flexibility to raise teacher salaries, and empowers teachers to prepare our kids for their future,” she said. 

The law bans teachers from raising issues of sexual orientation and gender identity in class through grade six and orders the removal of all books depicting sexual acts from school libraries. But religious texts are exempt from the book ban.

The law is similar to others that have passed in several Republican-led states to restrict discussions of these topics in classrooms, perhaps most notably Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, which opponents have slammed as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

All Democrats in the state legislature had opposed the bill, but Republicans hold comfortable majorities in both the state House and Senate and passed it last month. 

The law also requires school administrators to notify parents if a student requests to have their pronouns or names used in school changed. Schools will also be required to post a list of books in their libraries online and instructions for parents on how to review them and classroom materials and request that certain material be removed. 

Parents will also need to give their approval before schools can administer surveys to students on various topics like mental health, sex and political affiliation, under the new law. 

Republicans have argued that the law is common sense to keep parents involved in education and not have teachers discuss sexuality in class. But Democrats and LGBTQ groups said the law will prevent students from being able to be open with teachers about their own sexual orientation and gender identity and see their own experiences reflected in materials. 

Reynolds previously signed two bills into law in March to ban gender-affirming care for minors and prevent transgender students from using the bathroom or locker room in schools that matches their gender identity. 

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