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Iowa schools must inform parents when a child changes their pronouns
Iowa schools must inform parents when a child changes their pronouns

The Iowa Board of Education unanimously approved rules for a comprehensive education law that would require educators to inform parents and guardians when their child requests that they use different pronouns.

The rules, introduced last fall, are designed to help Iowa school boards navigate parts of a state law that concerns disclosing a student’s gender identity to families. The law also requires schools to have an online library catalog and guidelines for setting age-appropriate instruction.

Specifically, the year-old law requires school administrators to inform a student’s family of any pronoun change that differs from the child’s sex at birth or a new name intended to affirm the child’s gender identity. Educators are also prohibited from withholding information about a student’s gender identity or giving parents and guardians false information.

Opponents of the new Iowa policy and other state and local laws that prohibit school staff from notifying parents when children want to use different names or pronouns have said the requirement would forcibly kick students out of school. The move comes as schools across the country try to repeal or ban protections for transgender and nonbinary students to comply with state laws.

The Lynchburg, Virginia, public school board is among the school districts that have adopted Governor Glenn Youngkin’s policy prohibiting transgender and nonbinary students from changing their names or pronouns at school without written permission from their parents.

Related: Iowa schools ask parents for permission to use nicknames – regardless of gender identity

The climate in Iowa regarding book bans and gender identity

Passing the rules at Thursday’s Education Committee meeting was complicated by two ongoing federal lawsuits challenging Senate File 496, the law that ushered in the new requirement to inform parents when children want to change their pronouns.

The lawsuits were filed within days of each other in November 2023 by the ACLU of Iowa and Lambda Legal on behalf of several Iowa families, the Iowa State Education Association, Penguin Random House, authors whose books were banned under the law, several educators and a parent.

Parts of the book ban law are on hold due to a federal injunction. Because of this, the long-awaited regulations do not cover parts of the law that relate to banning most books that feature sexual acts and banning lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity through sixth grade.

Mari Butler Abry, the district librarian for Perry Community Schools, holds the three books that were removed from the school ahead of the Senate's injunction in front of Perry High School on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.Mari Butler Abry, the district librarian for Perry Community Schools, holds the three books that were removed from the school ahead of the Senate's injunction in front of Perry High School on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Mari Butler Abry, the district librarian for Perry Community Schools, holds the three books that were removed from the school ahead of the Senate’s injunction in front of Perry High School on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Thomas Mayes, general counsel for the Iowa Department of Education, told those in attendance that he would not discuss any parts of Senate File 496 that were affected by the injunction.

“This is neither the time nor the place to discuss litigation strategy in a public meeting,” Mayes said.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Iowa Board of Education’s changes to Chapter 12 rules.

Related: Consequences of the book ban in Iowa: 3,400 books withdrawn, including “1984” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Related: Iowa’s proposed rules to ban books in schools are here. Here’s what you need to know:

Are there penalties for violating the state mandate?

The rules provide penalties for school personnel who violate the law by withholding or providing false information regarding a student’s gender identity.

A first offense will likely result in a warning. For subsequent offenses, an individual can expect a hearing before the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners and additional disciplinary action.

“Don’t Say Gay” and similar bills: LGBTQ youth feel like they are being “crushed”

According to the documents, the rules will come into force on August 28, 2024.

Contributed by: Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY

Samantha Hernandez covers education for the Register. Reach her at (515) 851-0982 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @svhernandez or on Facebook at facebook.com/svhernandezreporter.

This article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register: Iowa requires schools to inform parents when a child changes their pronouns

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