Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds responded to the ACLU and Lambda Legal lawsuit, that would block the state's education law banning LGBTQ+ instruction and explicit books, saying "books with graphic depictions of sex acts have absolutely no place in our schools." File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against the state of Iowa over a newly implemented education law that bans LGBTQ+ instruction and sexually explicit books.
According to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Iowa Safe Schools and seven Iowa families, SF 496 -- which went into effect at the start of the school year -- "seeks to silence LGBTQ+ students" and "erase any recognition of LGBTQ+ people from public schools."
The lawsuit demands that SF 496 "be declared unconstitutional and permanently blocked" for "ongoing irreparable harm to LGBTQ+ students."
"SF 496 is a clear violation of public school students' First Amendment right to speak, read and learn freely. The First Amendment does not allow our state or our schools to remove books or issue blanket bans on discussion and materials simply because a group of politicians or parents find them offensive," said Thomas Story, ACLU of Iowa staff attorney.
The suit specifically targets three aspects of the law, the first of which forbids "any program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion, or instruction relating to gender identity or sexual orientation" in grades K-6.
In response, the lawsuit claims the ban has "frightened LGBTQ+ young people into concealing who they are for fear of violating the law or getting a teacher in trouble."
SF 496 also requires public schools through grade 12 to remove all books containing "descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act."
"This portion of the law has caused school districts to remove hundreds of titles from school libraries. School districts have interpreted this provision as requiring the removal of classics from authors such as James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Alice Walker," the lawsuit says.
And the lawsuit targets a third provision of SF 496, which requires teachers and staff to report students to their parents or guardians if the student asks to be referred to by names or pronouns that align with their gender identity.
"This forced outing provision requires disclosure of a student's gender identity to the student's parents or guardians regardless of whether a school official knows that the report will expose the student to potential family rejection, being kicked out or physical abuse," the lawsuit states.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds responded to the lawsuit in a statement Tuesday, arguing SF 496 was enacted for the sole purpose of protecting children.
"Protecting children from pornography and sexually explicit content shouldn't be controversial. The real controversy is that it exists in elementary schools," Reynolds said.
"Books with graphic depictions of sex acts have absolutely no place in our schools. If these books were movies, they'd be rated R," she added. "The media cannot even air or print excerpts from these books because the content is offensive and inappropriate, yet they promote the narrative that they're good for kids."