Parents would need to provide written consent for elementary school students to discuss gender identity at school under a bill moving through the Iowa Senate.
Senate File 167 would prohibit Iowa elementary schools from teaching about gender identity, defined as the “gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth,” without the written consent of a parent or guardian. The bill would affect kindergarten classes, which would not be allowed to include any gender identity curriculum, and grades one through six, which would include the curriculum only with parental consent.
Over 60 people attended a Tuesday morning Zoom meeting on the proposal. Opponents of the bill said it would be an overreach for the Legislature to declare one specific topic as off-limits to schools.
“We believe this is an intrusion in the role of local school boards to make decisions based on their community values and those that elected them,” said Margaret Buckton, representing both the Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Education Network of Iowa.
Representatives from LGBT activist groups argued that education about gender identity could also make schools more welcoming environments overall, with less bullying and more acceptance among students. Ella Rosenthal, a high school senior from Iowa City, asked lawmakers to consider the value of introducing students to ideas that they may not agree with.
“As someone growing up in such a polarized world, I’ve learned that if you disagree with someone, that doesn’t mean you’re not required to learn about them,” Rosenthal said.
Three representatives from the conservative Family Leader group spoke in favor of the bill. They said the bill would allow parents to weigh in on their child’s education about gender identity, which lobbyist Daniel Sunne referred to as “indoctrination by gender theory activists, undermining parental teaching and ignoring biological reality.”
“The question isn’t whether or not gender identity should be included in curriculum. The question is, should the parents give their written permission?” said Family Leader lobbyist Danny Carroll. “Why would you not want that?”
Republicans on the subcommittee agreed, emphasizing the importance of including parents in educational decisions.
“What this is about is restoring parental involvement in very serious conversations,” Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, said. Carlin announced Monday that he plans to run for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s seat in 2022.
Legislators have proposed over a dozen bills this session related to gender identity and sexuality. Several of the bills focus specifically on transgender youth, including a bill that would require student athletes to compete on teams which match their biological sex and a school bathroom bill, which would require students to use the restroom for their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
Another gender identity education bill proposed in the House would require that, if gender identity were included in school lessons, the curriculum would include information about the potential downsides of transitioning.
“Stop rushing these hate-filled bills through,” said transgender activist Heather Dunn. “Let’s get back to what we need done. That is focusing on the pandemic and our economy.”
The subcommittee voted 2-1 to move Senate File 167 for consideration by the Senate Education Committee.