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Censorship in Iowa

June 14, 2023

On May 26, 2023, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed S.F. 496, codifying draconian censorship into law. Now, Iowans face state-sanctioned censorship in schools, and the risks cannot be overstated.

The Human Rights Campaign calls S.F. 496 Iowa’s version of “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” legislation, and for good reason: it “bans classroom discussions that touch on LGBTQ+ topics in grades K-6, and also requires schools to forcibly out transgender students.” As Katie Lobosco explains, school administrators must now notify caregivers if their child “requests an accommodation” related to their gender identity, such as using a name or pronoun different from that reflected in school records. Further, S.F. 496 places restrictions on school libraries for students in K-12 – they must only have “age-appropriate” books, which the law defines as excluding any materials with “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.”

Advocates justify the law under the guise of so-called “parental rights,” while critics note that the “parental rights” movement is ultimately aimed at limiting students’ rights, particularly those who are LGBTQ+ or not white.

Don Parkhurst, a retired teacher who taught in an Iowa high school, is one of such critics. In a recent op-ed, published before S.F. 496 became law, he shares concerns about increasing book-banning in schools: “As a result, students and the public are being denied access to ideas and experiences that will open minds and promote understanding, compassion, and tolerance. Among other things, knowledge is awareness, and awareness is in danger of being pushed back into the pitch-black abyss of ignorance.”

We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation join Parkhurst and educators who are staunchly anti-censorship across the country in decrying the increase in book bans, like that included in S.F. 496. We also firmly believe that no student should be outed to their parents by their school. We have a fundamental human right to access knowledge, especially knowledge about ourselves and the world we live in. Schools should be a safe place to exercise that right.

LGBTQ Trans & GNC Youth

image of a stamp

A rubber stamp that spells censored ()

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