Bill to ban gender neutral terms in some Iowa high school language courses

DES MOINES — Teaching a gender neutral version of Spanish, French or any other language would not be allowed in Iowa schools under a bill that’s passed a subcommittee in the Iowa House.

Republican Representative Bill Gustoff of Des Moines says it’s not about pronouns in the English language, but other languages have words in male and female versions. “If that’s part of the language, then teach the language,” Gustoff says, “but don’t rewrite an entire language to remove ‘el’ and ‘la’ and ‘o’ and ‘a’ as endings.”

Gustoff says he introduced the bill because a teacher told him they would be disciplined if they did not teach a gender neutral version of a language. Gustoff says the teacher asked not to be publicly identified and Gustoff is not revealing the district where the teacher works.

Tye Nyhus, a Spanish instructor in Des Moines, says teaching and using gender neutral pronouns in class is important for some students. “Kids that don’t use it will likely not remember it,” Nyhus says, “but those who do will remember the feeling of being seen for a lifetime.”

Europeans have been debating the use of nouns coded as masculine and feminine. The agency that oversees usage of the Italian language has come out against gender neutral terms. In November the French senate voted to ban the use of gender neutral terms in government documents.