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Iowa Governor, Legislators Discuss Parameters for Parents’ Complaints about Books in Schools

(Radio Iowa) Governor Kim Reynolds says she’s working on legislation that would set parameters for local school officials to follow when parents object to books in the school library.

“If a parent has a concern about what’s in there, there should be a process where they get answers and they should have options,” Reynolds said. “…I’m telling you what some of the parents brought forth to me is concerning.” This fall, two Republicans in the state senate proposed charging teachers and school librarians with a crime if students have access at school to certain books. Reynolds instead suggests that parents be given easy access to a list of books in the school library and the books are being used in the classroom as well as a process to follow in their local district if they object to certain books.

“I don’t want to paint this as a big, broad problem,” Reynolds says, “because we’ve got educators out there that are doing their best every single day and I’m proud of what they do — my daughter is a public school teacher — and they’ve been there through some really tough times.” Senator Amy Sinclair of Allerton is chair of the Senate Education Committee. Sinclair says there’s a difference between a public library and the library inside a public school and, while she’s not one to support banning books, Sinclair says parental consent could be required for certain titles.

“You know, if parents don’t want their 12 year old child checking out a book that might have inappropriate, not age appropriate, potentially obscene material, they should have an opportunity to reject that prior to their student getting their hands on it,” Sinclair says. Sinclair is drafting a “Parents Bill of Rights” and she says its passage is her highest priority in the 2022 legislative session.

“Parents have the right to know what their kids are being taught,” Sinclair says. “Parents have the right to access curriculum materials.” Sinclair says those are the kind of tools parents need to be actively engaged in their child’s education.

“Parents should know the results of student assessment data or scores or grades,” Sinclair says. “Parents should have immediate and open understanding of what their kids are learning. how they’re learning it and what is actually being graded and measured.” Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls (like “walls”) says he’s thrilled the discussion has moved away from putting teachers in jail, as that likely discouraged teachers from taking or staying in jobs in Iowa schools. The governor and lawmakers made their remarks Tuesday during a statehouse forum sponsored by the Iowa Capitol Press Association.

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