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Watch: Iowa State Republicans Seek Parental Notification for Any Classroom Discussion of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Feb 13, 2020
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Thirteen GOP state lawmakers in Iowa have introduced a bill that would require schools to notify parents in advance of any classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, reports local news channel whotv.com.

Proponents of the proposal - including a Baptist cleric - say that it's a matter of including parents in the educational process. Others dispute that, saying that parental input is always part of school curricula and suggesting that the bill rises not from concern for children, but from anti-LGBTQ animus.

The news report took note of the ongoing attacks on non-heterosexual and non-cisgender Americans across a number of states. Those attacks have grown more frequent since the 2016 elections, and tend to target trans youth. In several states, Republican lawmakers are trying to criminalize medically appropriate care for trans children.

But Baptist preacher Brad Cranston told the media that issues of sexual orientation or gender identity are "controversial," and said that parents "have the right to know" if LGBTQ-inclusive material is part of a classroom discussion.

That line of reasoning was called into question by a mental health professional named Lorilei Baker, who said that the bill "assumes children can turn gay by suggestion."

One of the 13 Republican lawmakers responsible for the legislation, State Rep. Salmon, suggested that schools have a distinct message they might try to convey about such issues.

"Not all students, parents or families agree with the viewpoint held by many schools regarding sexual orientation or gender identity issues," Salmon said, according to the Desmoines Register.

"And they should be allowed to opt out of instruction that contains that," Salmon added.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the only subjects that have become "controversial" when it comes to eduction. A bill proposed by Ohio Republicans late last year caused alarm because of the perception that the bill would have barred teachers from marking students' answers wrong even if they were factually incorrect, as long as the answers were drawn from the students' religious beliefs.

The lawmakers behind that bill denied that the bill would give students license to present incorrect answers and have them marked correct as long as they pointed to their religious beliefs, but the ACLU, citing the bill's own language, argued that - intentional or not - that would be exactly the outcome if the bill were to be passed into law.

Similarly, critics of the Iowa proposal noted that there could be wide-ranging effects of the bill being proposed there - such as, for instance, a class on government being censored from mentioning openly gay Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Iowa Association of School Boards lobbyist Emily Piper envisioned just such a scenario, asking, "Can we not have that conversation in a government class, then, without first notifying the parents and allowing them to withdraw their child from the class?"

One Iowa Action's Keenan Crow pointed out that sexual orientation is something that straights and gays both possess, and gender identity is something that cisgender people, as well as transgender, individuals have - the implication being a question as to whether the law would permit acknowledgment of heterosexuals and cisgender people unless parents were notified in advance.

The bill was seen by some as wholly unnecessary - at least, for its stated reasons. Democratic state representative Art Staed, who is also a retired teacher, noted that parents are already part of the process.

"We have a system for that with local school boards," Staed noted. "To say that there's no parent input right now, I think, is ridiculous. I just retired from teaching two years ago. I can tell you, parent input is always part of the process of everything that we do."

Watch the news clip on the story below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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