Should LGBT issues be taught in Iowa schools? Some religious advocates say no.

Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, shared her support for a bill that would require Iowa schools to notify parents if they're discussing gender identity or sexual orientation in class. (Photo by Linh Ta/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

In Iowa classrooms, a wide range of historical figures and moments are taught.

But in a packed subcommittee meeting at the Iowa Capitol on Monday, both religious leaders and LGBT advocates argued: How should LGBT issues be taught?

House File 2201 would require school districts to notify parents about any classroom instructions regarding gender identity, a person’s perception of their gender, which can differ from their sex; and sexual orientation, which relates to who someone is attracted to.

Parents would receive annual notification from their schools about any planned lessons about both topics and may review the materials and choose to excuse their children.

LGBT advocates and education lobbyists spoke out against the bill.

Advocates pointed out that it could erase major figures in current events and history from classroom lectures and curriculum. They questioned if teachers would need to notify parents if they decided to teach about a presidential candidate like Pete Buttigieg, who is gay

Emily Piper of the Iowa Association of School Boards said her organization is opposed to the bill and said it would create a burden on Iowa schools. 

She said parents are already involved in school curriculum by going to school board meetings and voting for members.

“I think this is very disruptive,” Piper said. “I think that this is really going to impede our requirements of teaching good curriculum.”

Several pastors spoke in favor of the bill, saying the bill doesn’t ban the discussion of LGBT people or issues. Instead, it gives parents the opportunity to learn and choose if they want their children to learn about gender identity and sexual orientation 

A.J. Potter, a pastor at Pleasantville Baptist Church, said schools and the state are taking away his rights to parent his children.

“You’re silencing the group of parents in our state. If we’re talking about whose voices are being silenced, you’re talking about the voice of me as a parent in the state.”

Brad Cranston, a pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Burlington, said that while some schools choose to teach about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected politician in California, there are others who see his history in a different light.

“Not everyone in this state, myself included, believes there’s nothing wrong with these lifestyles,” Cranston said. “My biblical worldview tells me there is definitely something wrong.”

Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, said he is opposed to the bill and said that it’s not an issue of parental rights, but one of bigotry.

“I see it more as an intolerance,” Staed said.

Rep. Tom Moore, R-Griswold, said there are some issues with how the bill is written, including the burden on school districts to notify parents about material.

But he said he’s supporting it moving forward and said it’s an issue bigger than a subcommittee decision.

The bill passed 2-1 on a party line vote and moves to the House Education Committee.