Governor Reynolds book banning bill

On Feb. 9, 2023 Governor Kim Reynolds proposed a new bill to Iowa state lawmakers that could severely change content in the K-12 classroom. The bill was proposed in order to “protect parents rights.” This bill was loaded to the brim with potential changes that could happen in schools across the state. 

Governor Reynolds believes that parents should have the ultimate say in what their children are learning and reading. This new bill requires teachers to list all material that is used in class, all employees in direct contact with students, all books available in classrooms and libraries and a place to process a request for removal of materials from classrooms. 

There will be a statewide removal list of books that can be found online and will be updated every month. Schools can request the use of these books, but they will only have access to them if every parent in the school sends written consent for their child to read the book. 

Another big change will have to do with the talk of gender identity and sexual orientation. Students ages kindergarten through third grade will not be allowed to learn about gender identity or sexual orientation in the classroom. Schools will also be required to tell parents if a student tries to go by another gender identity or name at school that differentiates from their birth certificate. Students will need parent permission to use different pronouns in school. 

Governor Reynolds says, “The bill establishes that a parent or guardian bears the ultimate responsibility to make decisions affecting the parent or guardian’s minor child, including decisions related to the minor child’s medical care, moral upbringing, religious upbringing, residence, education and extracurricular activities.”

If schools are found to violate the new sets of standards they would first have a written warning to the school board and second fave a civil penalty of up to 5,000 dollars. This money would go back into having that teacher “re-trained” on the new rules. 

Elizabeth McMahon  is currently an Associate Professor of Library Science at Central College. McMahon has been a reference and instruction librarian previously, and also Director of Geisler Library at Central. 

“To my mind, the purpose of banning books is to call attention to a conflict or tension that already exists in a school or community. Those who are presenting the challenges often talk in terms of protecting children or upholding community values, but the challenges or ban attempts themselves point to a place where values are in flux or changing,” explains McHahom. 

McMahon explains that there is a deep significance to knowing about banned books, “The writer Chimamanda Adichie has a TED Talk about ‘The Danger of a Single Story.’ Banning books limits us to a ‘single story’ whereas the world is complex and complicated. Books that are banned or challenged often focus on changing social values or people that have experienced marginalization or discrimination. We learn about ourselves and each other and develop empathy through reading.”

McMahon currently teaches a class at Central College about banned books called Freedom to Read: Reading’s Role in Citizenship. 

“We start from the idea that reading makes us more engaged and effective citizens by making us better informed and more empathetic. We do a “case study” project examining a book that has been challenged and the story behind it. We look at literacy and reading practices historically, especially in relation to American slavery. We learn a little bit of neuroscience

and what happens in the brain when we read. We also study misinformation and disinformation as they are shaping our reading world today,” say McMahon. 

“Book bans happen in places where different members of the community feel a sense of

responsibility or feel like they have some ownership through paying taxes, such as schools or public

libraries. I think banning books also reinforces the power of books and the written word. We don’t

worry about banning TV shows – we just change the channel or put on parental controls. Books

seem to invoke a more emotional response which shows us their power and importance,” argues Mchamon. 

Book banning is an issue occurring all across the country and more than likely will keep getting worse. It is important to keep updated and aware of these issues because a big change is brewing.