Book bans are seen as targeting LGBTQ content
Teri Patrick bristles at the idea she wants to ban books about LGBTQ issues in Iowa schools, arguing her only goal is ridding schools of sexually explicit material.
Sara Hayden Parris says that whatever you want to call it, it’s wrong for some parents to think a book shouldn’t be readily available to any child if it isn’t right for their own child.
The viewpoints of the two mothers from suburban Des Moines underscore a divide over LGBTQ content in books as Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds pushes an especially sweeping crackdown on content in Iowa school libraries. The bill she’s backing could result in the removal of books from school libraries in all of the state’s 327 districts if they’re successfully challenged in any one of them.
School boards and legislatures nationwide also are facing questions about books and considering making it easier to limit access.
“We’re seeing these challenges arise in almost every state of the union,” said Deborah Caldwell-stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Longstanding disagreements about content in school libraries often focus this year on books with LGBTQ themes as policymakers nationwide also consider limiting or banning gender-affirming care and drag shows, allowing the deadnaming of transgender students or adults in the workplace, and other measures targeting LGBTQ people.
In Florida, some schools have covered or removed books under a new law that requires an evaluation of reading materials and for districts to publish a searchable list of books where individuals can then challenge specific titles.
The reviews have drawn widespread attention, with images of empty bookshelves ricocheting across social media, and are often accompanied by criticism of Gov. Ron Desantis, a Republican expected to run for president.
Florida’s largest teachers union is challenging the law, arguing its implementation is too broad and leading to unnecessary censorship. An education department spokesperson did not immediately comment.
Desantis said the state has not instructed schools to empty libraries or cover books. He said 175 books have been removed from 23 school districts, with 87% of the books identified as pornographic, violent or inappropriate for their grade level.
The Iowa legislation comes amid efforts there to keep a closer eye on public school curriculums and make taxpayer money available to parents for private school tuition. Reynolds, the governor, has made such proposals the core of her legislative agenda, telling a conservative parents group that their work was essential to guarding against “indoctrination” by public schools.
Under a bill backed by Reynolds, the titles and authors of all books available to students in classrooms and libraries would be posted online, and officials would need to specify how parents could request a book’s removal and how decisions to retain books could be appealed. When any district removes a book, the state Education Department would add it to a “removal list,” and all of Iowa’s 327 districts would have to deny access to the book unless parents gave approval.
At a hearing on Reynolds’ bill, Republican lawmakers, who hold huge majorities in both legislative chambers, said they might change the proposal but were committed to seeing it approved. The bill has passed a Senate committee and is awaiting a floor vote.
“The parents are the governing authority in how their child is educated, period,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair.
Sam Helmick, president of the Iowa Library Association, said communities should decide what’s in their libraries and that it’s important for children to have access to books that address their lives and questions.