Jan 12, 2023 - Politics

"Don't Say Gay" bill introduced by Iowa Republican leaders

Illustration of a word balloon in the colors of the Pride flag with a no symbol drawing over it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Iowa Republican House leaders are proposing two classroom bills that could force teachers to "out" certain LGBT students, according to advocacy groups, as well as prohibit teachers from providing LGBT-related materials for students 3rd grade and younger.

Driving the news: House File 8 restricts school staff from giving "instruction of any kind" on gender identity and sexual orientation in K-3rd grade classrooms.

  • That includes tests, surveys or handouts.

The second bill, House File 9, prohibits school staff from "affirming" a student's gender identity and preferred pronouns if it's different from their birth certificate, unless the teacher has written approval from the student's parent. It applies to students across all grade levels.

  • It also prevents teachers from keeping a transgender student's gender identity private from parents and from encouraging students to seek gender-affirming medical treatment.

What they're saying: Republican Rep. Skyler Wheeler, who chairs the House Education Committee, told Iowa Capital Dispatch that House File 9 will help parents stay informed.

  • The bill comes after the Linn-Mar school district passed a policy allowing students to ask the district for gender-affirming support without notifying parents.
  • Wheeler also said House File 8 doesn’t prohibit kids of LGBT parents to share their experiences in class — “It just simply says to the teacher, ‘Hey, we’re going to stick to what we’ve been teaching,’” he said.

The other side: House File 8 puts transgender students in danger if a teacher is forced to "out" them, especially if they have an unsafe home environment or are kicked out of the house, said Damian Thompson of Iowa Safe Schools, an LGBT youth group.

  • Meanwhile, restricting any LGBT conversations in K-3rd grade classrooms can hurt students' ability to empathize with others, Thompson said.
  • Books and conversations about how some families may be different help create more understanding and lessen potential bullying, she said.

Between the lines: The two bills are some of the first filed by House Republicans this session, which shows they are priorities.

  • Several Republican leaders have already co-sponsored the bill, including House Speaker Pat Grassley and House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl.

Zoom out: A very similar "Don't Say Gay" bill passed last year in Florida and another is proposed in Texas this session.

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