Capital Clicks

Bill would charge teachers, administrators with serious misdemeanor for ‘obscene’ content

By: - February 3, 2022 5:16 pm

The Iowa Capitol. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa teachers or school administrators who knowingly provide “obscene material or hard-core pornography” to students would be guilty of a serious misdemeanor under a bill proposed by Senate President Jake Chapman.

Chapman, R-Adel, took up the issue of controversial books in the fall, when he advocated for criminal penalties at school board meetings around the Des Moines metro.

State Sen. Jake Chapman is a Republican from Adel. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Legislature)

“I don’t know why the school thinks that they’re above the law,” Chapman said, according to the Des Moines Register. “But I intend to do something about it.”

Chapman initially planned legislation to make it a felony offense for a teacher to give obscene material to a student. Iowa’s lowest felony penalty is at least two years in state prison. 

Instead, the bill released Thursday would classify it as a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,875.

To prevent students from accessing inappropriate content, schools would be required to designate an administrator to ensure nothing obscene is available in the school’s library. 

The bill would also introduce a definition of “hard-core pornography” into Iowa Code. That would include “patently offensive representations of oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse” or “patently offensive representations of masturbation, excretory functions, or bestiality.” The material must also lack artistic, literary, scientific or political value.

It’s unclear how much support Chapman’s bill will have within the Republican caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver was skeptical of Chapman’s initial felony charge proposal on a Jan. 28 episode of Iowa Press.

“Charging anyone with felonies for these types of things, I don’t think is a good idea,” Whitver said.

The Senate Education Committee has already advanced a “Parent Bill of Rights,” a proposal to require schools to report a student’s curriculum and the books and other material available to them. It is similar to transparency provisions in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ education bill, which passed through a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.