Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has enacted legislation prohibiting LGBT education for elementary-aged children, limiting sexually explicit content in public school libraries, and increasing parental involvement in issues of gender identity in children. The legislation, Senate File 496, restricts teaching on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through sixth grade and removes any books from school libraries that contain descriptions or depictions of sexual acts. In addition, it mandates online access to school library catalogs for parents, enables parents to request the removal of unsuitable classroom materials, requires parental consent for children to be surveyed on topics like political affiliation and mental health, and insists on parental notification if a student wishes to be identified as the opposite gender.
Governor Reynolds praised the legislation, calling it a transformative educational reform that prioritizes parental involvement, reduces regulations on public schools, allows flexibility in raising teacher salaries, and empowers educators to prepare children for their future. She stated, “Education is the great equalizer and everyone involved – parents, educators, our children – deserves an environment where they can thrive.” Despite the Governor’s endorsement, the legislation faced opposition from Democrats, LGBT activists, and the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
Nationwide, there has been growing controversy over the inclusion of books with explicit sexual themes and content in schools and libraries, leading to backlash from parents. This issue, along with the advancement of ideological messages in publicly-funded education, is considered a factor in the recent Republican victories in states like Florida and Virginia. The concern of parents being unaware of their children’s gender confusion has been underscored by tragic cases like Yaeli Martinez, a 19-year-old who was encouraged to consider “gender transitioning” as a remedy for her depression, an idea promoted by a high school counselor who concealed the situation from her mother. Yaeli tragically ended her own life after three years of living as a male.