Iowa Board of Education advances rules on school library books

DES MOINES — The Iowa Board of Education is advancing a set of rules that give schools and teachers some clarification on a law to requires schools to remove books with sexually explicit content or illustrations. Enforcement of the law is set to take effect in January.

Iowa Department of Education attorney Thomas Mayes says the proposed rules give officials the ability to end an investigation when a district responds to a complaint. “If a district voluntarily comes into alignment and permanently comes into alignment, there’s really no need for a citation,” Mayes says. “The problem’s been solved.”

State officials will not be releasing a list of books which are not to be in classrooms or school libraries. Another part of the new law forbids classroom instruction about gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through sixth grade. The Board of Education’s proposed rules say a neutral mention of those topics does not violate the law. Mayes says that would include something like reading a book that happens to have LGBTQ characters.

“So that is sort of a…safe harbor for classroom teachers,” Mayes says, “that a neutral mention is not a promotion.”

The law, which already went into effect, requires schools to notify parents when students ask to use a name that’s different from what’s on school registration forms. The proposed rules clarify that does not apply to a nickname, but only when a student asks to use a name or pronoun at school as part of a gender transition. The department is taking comments on the rules. Public hearings are scheduled to take place in Des Moines on January 3 and 4.