Judge blocks parts of Iowa law restricting school books from taking effect

DES MOINES — A federal judge has stopped state officials from enforcing parts of a law that banned instruction about sexual orientation in elementary classes and has already prompted schools to remove books from library shelves.

Judge Stephen Locher issued the temporary injunction late Friday, preventing penalties in the law from going into effect today. He said the book ban was “incredibly broad” and “unlikely to satisfy” the First Amendment. The judge also ruled the part of the law about discussing sexual orientation in K-through sixth grade classes prohibits discussion of all relationships, gay and straight, and “every elementary school teacher in the state has likely been violating it since the day the school year started.”

The Iowa State Education Association and the nation’s largest book publisher filed one of two lawsuits challenging the law. ISEA president Mike Beranek said the First Amendment “is alive and well in Iowa schools” and the ruling allows educators “to do their jobs without fear of punishment.”

Governor Kim Reynolds called the ruling “extremely disappointing” and she said “books containing sexually explicit content…do not belong in a school library.”

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird said is “deeply disappointed” in the ruling and she will keep fighting the two lawsuits that seek to overturn the law.

Another part of the law challenged in court was allowed to stand. It requires administrators to notify parents if a student asks to use a different name or pronoun at school.