A federal judge in Iowa on Friday blocked a law intended to keep sexually explicit books out of schools and prevent elementary school students from being taught gender ideology in the classroom.
Judge Stephen Locher, appointed by President Joe Biden, ruled that an Iowa law, approved by Republican Governor Kim Reynolds earlier this year, was “unreasonable” and “puritanical.” The judge did allow a provision in the law that required schools to tell parents if a child was using pronouns different to the child’s 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. “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.”
In response to the decision, Reynolds said that she was disappointed and that children should not be exposed to sexual content and radical gender theory.
“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. “The fact that we’re even arguing these issues is ridiculous. The real debate should be about why society is so intent on over-sexualizing our young children. It’s wrong, and I will continue to do my part to protect their innocence.”
The law, Senate File 496, was challenged by a coalition including publisher Penguin Random House as well as authors John Green and Jodi Picoult. In addition to requiring parental notification if a child claimed to be transgender, the law also aimed to get gender ideology out of the classroom for those 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 says.
Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, supported Locher’s decision. “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 promised to keep fighting in a statement on the ruling.
“I am deeply disappointed in the district court’s decision today. 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.
In recent years, gender ideology has crept into schools across the country, even in conservative areas, prompting parents to push for more oversight and accountability for teachers.