Judge Blocks Iowa From Banning Books in School Libraries

Federal Judge Stephen Locher defends Iowa’s right to fill its school bookshelves with reading material of all kinds.

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Books on a shelf thinking of a judge banning them from the bookshelf they are on.

A federal judge in Iowa has temporarily blocked the state from enforcing one of its book ban laws that banned books depicting sex acts and disallows school teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation. Early last year, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation that forbids teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender with students through the 6th grade. It also banned school libraries from offering books that depict sex acts unless those are religious texts. Hundreds of books were removed from Iowa school libraries before the law went into effect on January 1st. Reynolds has defended the law by saying it aims to “protect children from pornography and sexually explicit content.”

Lawsuit Filed

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ children, and seven Iowa students and their families. The lawsuit aims to declare the law unconstitutional as a violation of students’ and teachers’ free speech and equal protection rights. One plaintiff, an Iowa City high school senior, Puck Carlson, regarded the law as having a devastating impact on Iowa LGBTQ students. She has watched her younger LGBTQ sister struggle to feel safe in school ever since the law took effect.

Book cover for SOLD by Patricia McCormick which features the face of a young girl.

The Judges Response

U.S. District Judge Stephen Locher writes that the law deems all books that depict sex as having no educational or literary value. Locher says, “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.” Locher has also said that the defendants have been unable to present evidence that books depicting sex acts lead to problems in schools, which does not justify the removal of these types of books.

Sign that reads "Read Banned Books This Way"

This ban on gender identity and sexual orientation makes no distinction between cis and trans identities or gay and straight relationships. This means that the law forbids instruction on subjects that recognize any gender or relationship between two people, gay or straight. Teachers would be barred from identifying historical figures by male or female pronouns. Locher has said, “as any such discussion would, again, amount to promotion or instruction that relates to the person’s gender identity.”

Check out this link for more information on Iowa’s book banning.

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