A bill that would allow parents to sue Iowa teachers, librarians or school administrators for allowing students to access material deemed obscene or “hardcore pornography” has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee , surviving the first funnel week of Iowa’s 2022 legislative session.
The bill, Senate File 2364, was proposed by Senate Speaker Jake Chapman, R-Adel, following concerns from parents about the contents of some books available in classrooms and libraries.
“It has become increasingly clear that we live in a world in which many, including our media, wish to confuse, mislead and deceive us, calling good bad and bad good,” Chapman said before the start. of the session on January 10. need look far to see the sinister agenda unfold before our eyes.
Chapman plans to introduce an amendment to SF 2364, which would align penalties for teachers with those in the Iowa code for renting or selling hardcore pornography: an aggravated misdemeanor on the first offense and a Class D felony. on the second offense.
The book challenges and concerns about obscenity in Iowa schools arose primarily from politicians and parents in central Iowa’s school districts of Ankeny, Johnston, Urbandale, Waukee, and West Des Moines.
The bulk of the challenged books and material are by LGBTQ+, Black, and Hispanic authors, leading some of the opposition to dispute the true obscenity of the challenged material. Many believe these books are taken out of context and have substantial literary and educational value, which can help students navigate their own lives and identities.
Keenan Crow, policy director of One Iowa, an LGBTQ advocacy group, spoke out about the issue of context with disputed books in an article for the Des Moines Register. They illustrated their point by reading an excerpt from the Bible which describes sexual relations between a man and his daughters.
“I don’t think just because this story is in the Bible doesn’t mean the Bible is about rape or incest or any of those other things,” Crow said in the article. “That’s why we have the test of taking the work as a whole and examining its literary, scientific or other value. So I don’t believe there is pornography in our schools today.
The American court system uses the Miller test to determine obscenity according to the following criteria: (1) whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards”, would find that the work, “taken as a whole”, appeal to “lustful interest” (2) if the work depicts or depicts, in a patently offensive manner, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable state law, and (3) if the work, ” taken as a whole”, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific evaluation.
There are already procedures in place for parents to voice concerns, object, and call for a review of educational materials in school districts, as well as obscenity laws codified in the law of the ‘Iowa.
JJ Butts, associate professor of English at Simpson, has weighed in on this legislation; he thinks he is trying to set up an unnecessary avenue for obscenity claims – one that is likely to fail and cause problems for school districts.
“I think the challenge here is that there are already avenues in almost every school district to challenge a book. So why raise the stakes for costumes, right? The obscenity laws haven’t changed, so it strikes me that what’s going on here is a form of incitement to harassment,” Butts said. “They’re setting up a situation that encourages people to file lawsuits, which they probably won’t win, but which will impose a lot of hardship on school districts.”
Butts also said these bills would create an atmosphere of confusion that would not help education, especially for marginalized students.
“It’s going to create a lot of confusion about what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Butts said. “I think that translates to librarians and school districts not providing age-appropriate materials to the populations that will need them. Often the books that are regularly challenged are books relating to LGBTQIA+ issues or books that specifically address populations of color.
One disputed book in particular, “Not All the Boys Are Blue” by George M. Johnson, is a memoir of Johnson’s journey growing up as a queer black man. Iowa parents, in addition to Chapman and Governor Reynolds, often use a short excerpt detailing Johnson’s sexual assault to generate support for book bans and obscenity legislation.
Throughout the memoir, Johnson recounts how he was able to heal and overcome his trauma, leading some to believe that these excerpts are taken too far out of context and are used to evoke feelings of disgust in other parents of the Iowa.
“I think to some extent the purpose of the bills is more political than it is designed to create community safety,” Butts said. “I think it’s fair to ask whether or not a book is age-appropriate. I think it’s also important to recognize that these books often help people who are otherwise ignored; they can help people think about what their life is like, what it could be like, and understand the experiences they’re going through, things that a community wouldn’t even try to cover.
Since the survival of funnel week — the deadline for bills presented in a chamber to receive full committee approval — SF 2364 will continue through the legislative process.
Future educators give their opinion
Naryah Moore, senior primary education major, condemns any type of legislation aimed at stifling teacher curricula is harmful, whether it’s obscenity or topics like critical race theory, another area of literature that has been challenged nationally.
“It scares me because people don’t see what’s in education. We are here to build citizens who can be good contributors to the world, and that happens by learning the real facts behind the story,” Moore said. “Particularly in primary education, students learn these things through books, so when there is potential for the courts to get involved or when educational and truthful books are politicized, it scares me as a future teacher.”
As a black woman, Moore believes it is essential that young students have access to material that represents and allows them to explore their identity.
“When it comes to material on race, ethnicity and sexuality, these are the topics that parents particularly attack. Being black, I want to make sure these materials are taught in my classroom,” Moore said. “These bills can prevent students from seeing themselves in a book. Learning about representation and real truths can be difficult, but it’s important that children are exposed to them or they will be deprived of an education in the long term.”
On the issue of transparency within schools, Hunter Brashaw, a senior high school education major, says this type of legislation is unnecessary, noting that school districts already have procedures in place for parents to voice their concerns. concerns.
“School board meetings are open to the public. If a parent has a concern, most of the time they are not alone – use these settings to voice your concerns instead of making someone else’s life difficult,” he said.
Brashaw plans to teach mathematics, an area that often has little literature-based material in its curriculum. Yet he sees this issue as an attack on teachers.
“I don’t think the arguments behind this bill are very good, I just think they’re trying to attack teachers in some way,” he said. “I think they are trying to use fear. I don’t think it’s a question of transparency. Why include the trial? Most educators don’t get into this to fuck the kids, that’s not what happens.
Reflecting on the graphic excerpts from highly contested books, Brashaw believes the material should be seen as teaching tools.
“These kinds of things exist, so these books are more like educational tools designed to raise awareness about subjects. There is a line to be drawn in schools, but it’s not like teachers put 50 shades of Gray in schools, because it’s just not necessary. I don’t think there’s a problem with this dissertation as a teaching tool.
Looking ahead, Moore said she would welcome conversations about her class materials with parents.
“I’m always ready to hear someone’s side of the story. If you think there is a problem in the class, I would like to solve it. I’m just there for the kids,” Moore said. “I feel like something else is going on. [with SF 2364], corn. They try to add more procedures and technical details when I think it’s really just a matter of people’s conflicting opinions.
While book banning continues to be a widely contested issue nationally, Butts said there are better ways to determine what is appropriate and inappropriate for classrooms.
“It’s not a matter of choice, teachers and students suffer. It makes it very difficult for teachers to do their jobs and it robs students — especially vulnerable students — of really important information,” Butts said. “I think it’s good for parents to be involved in their children’s education, but there are 100 other ways to do that that would be less damaging to teachers, students and the teacher-community relationship.”