Jun 22, 2023 - Education

Schools left in limbo as Iowa's new book law looms

Illustration of a stack of books with a question mark printed on the pages.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A new law prohibiting books containing "sex acts" in schools goes into effect on July 1, but the Iowa Department of Education hasn't offered any guidance on how to comply with it.

Why it matters: Teachers and librarians who fail to follow the law can face a written warning, escalating to disciplinary action by the Iowa Board of Education, according to the bill.

  • Penalizations start Jan. 1, 2024.

State of play: The new law requires the removal of books that "depict" or "describe" sex acts.

  • It was part of the governor's sweeping education reform bill passed this spring to protect "parental rights."

Leaders from the Iowa Library Association sent a list of questions to the head of the Iowa Department of Education asking for clarification, such as how the state defines "age-appropriate materials" and what happens if materials are age-appropriate for one student, but not for another, according to The Gazette.

What they're saying: The Iowa Department of Education isn't planning on issuing guidance, state spokesperson Heather Doe told Axios.

  • School officials should consult with their legal counsel instead, Doe said.

The intrigue: Des Moines Public Schools is "patiently waiting" to see if guidance comes out from the state before removing books, interim superintendent Matt Smith tells Axios.

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