Iowa book ban on hold, concerns over what’s to come
(ABC 6 News) – By now, Iowa was supposed to have its Book Ban law in effect, had a federal judge not blocked the law.
Opponents of the law continue fighting to make sure the law doesn’t go into effect.
The law would ban certain books in schools based on their “sexual content.” Schools had until New Year’s Day to get their shelves cleared out, causing stress for those in the Clear Lake Community School District.
“I mean, we got a few teachers at the beginning when we started the whole process that were a little concerned about the books in their room,” said Superintendent Doug Gee with the Clear Lake Community School District.
“I think they were a little more concerned or worried about ‘Oh, man, If I didn’t get every book that I needed to out of here, what’s going to happen to me?'”
A federal judge blocked the law just before the New Year, with multiple lawsuits filed against it.
“We know there’s an injunction. That means those books should go right back on the shelf. But if they’ve already been removed, do tax dollars pay for multiple copies?” Sam Helmick, President of the Iowa Library Association said.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like growing up in a state and debating books your parents read for an AP test 25 years ago.”
It’s not just school libraries. It’s making things difficult for public libraries working with schools.
“One of the questions we had were when you ask us to make reasonable separations between adult materials and children’s materials, that’s a legally murky term. Can you help us unpack that? Does it mean a velvet rope? Does that mean it has to be two shelves away from each other ?” Helmick added.
Despite stress, Gee sees it as an opportunity for the school district. About 20 books have been removed from the shelves and they’re not going back – at least not right now.
“Ok, this is a great thing to be able to look at what we have. Then we end up buying some new books, some more current books.”
Certain books not allowed to be available to future generations. As Helmick puts it: “There are so many beautiful stories in the world. There are going to continue to be more if we allow people to read and write and speak freely.”
I reached out to several schools. Some did not respond and some did not want to comment including Charles City Community Schools. I also didn’t hear back from the Iowa Department of Education. When contacting Governor Kim Reynolds, I was referred to this previous statement:
“I’m extremely disappointed in today’s ruling. Instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation has no place in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms. And there should be no question that books containing sexually explicit content — as clearly defined in Iowa law — do not belong in a school library for children. The fact that we’re even arguing these issues is ridiculous. The real debate should be about why society is so intent on over-sexualizing our young children. It’s wrong, and I will continue to do my part to protect their innocence.”
The Iowa Library Association has its legislative day March 5th at the state capitol in Des Moines.
According to PEN America, an organization working to protect free expression, at least 450 book titles have been banned in Iowa. That includes ‘The Color Purple,’ ‘A Handmaid’s Tale,’ and even picture books like ‘Prince and Knight.’