DES MOINES — A proposal requiring schools to notify students and parents of upcoming lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity advanced Monday in the Iowa House.
House File 2201 would give them an opportunity to review the material and, if they desire, opt out of the lessons.
Proponents compared the measure with review and opt-out guidelines already in state law for human growth and development — sex ed — classes in K-12 schools.
“HF 2201 is merely a bill about parental rights and opt-out rights. It’s not about prohibiting or requiring any particular curriculum or instruction,” Lance Kinzer of the First Amendment Partnership on Monday told a House Education subcommittee. Iowa’s guidelines are similar to those in many other states, he said.
Emily Piper of the Iowa Association of School Boards told legislators the bill would present “so many potential issues and problems ... and will impede schools from teaching good curriculum.”
The law would require the school to give parents advance notice if there was going to be a discussion of current events, such as a presidential candidate who is gay, Piper said.
Keenan Crow of One Iowa Action agreed the bill would be “quite a bit more onerous than people have been led to believe.”
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“Sexual orientation and gender identity are not just things that gay and trans people have,” Crow said. “Straight people have a sexual orientation. It’s straight.”
Under the proposal, he said, “Anytime we talk about anyone who is married, regardless who they are married to ... anytime we talk about anyone who identifies as a man, we trigger that disclosure requirement.”
Des Moines pastor Brad Cranston said the bill is about parents’ right “to know exactly what the public school, which they are paying with their tax dollars, is teaching their kids.”
“The LGBTQ lifestyle is controversial,” Cranston said. “Not everyone in the state believes there is nothing wrong with these lifestyles. My biblical worldview tells me there is something very definitely wrong. There are many in this state, with no hatred in their heart, who have those sincere beliefs.”
He characterized opposition to the bill as a “desire not to be totally transparent.”
Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, a retired teacher, opposed the bill.
Children grappling with sexual orientation and gender identity in their own lives need those lessons, he said. Those who aren’t struggling also need it, he said. Schools that offer sexual orientation and gender identity education report it leads to decreases in suicide attempts and less bullying and harassment of students who identify as other than straight.
Rep. Tom Moore, R-Griswold, also a retired teacher, agreed with those who called the bill “onerous,” but supported moving it to the full committee to get a broader discussion of the issues.
“The bill is not ready to move forward, but the discussion is,” Moore said. “I’m going to support this in subcommittee because I don’t think three of us should discuss this. I think the whole education committee should discuss it and make that decision.”
Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, a sponsor of HF 2201, ended the hearing saying, “Not all parents want others to teach their children about sexual orientation and gender identity because it, too, involves family religious beliefs about sexuality and sexual ethics. Not all families agree with the viewpoint held by many schools regarding sexual identity issues and they should be allowed to opt out of instruction that contains that.”
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