Iowa’s top Senate Republican says his colleague’s idea of creating criminal penalties for teachers and other school employees who give so-called ‘obscene’ books to students is out of the question .
“I think charging anyone with crimes for this stuff, I don’t think is a good idea,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said Friday during a taping. from “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.
Fellow Whitver Republican Senate Speaker Jake Chapman R-Adel said he was drafting legislation that would create a new felony penalty if teachers or other school employees distribute what is defined as “obscene” content to students. Chapman has yet to table his bill or provide details on how the bill will work.
In a text message Friday, Chapman said distributing obscene material to minors is already a criminal offence. Iowa’s current obscenity law explicitly states that it does not prohibit “the use of materials appropriate for educational purposes” in schools, libraries, and educational programs.
“The main issue is enforcing the code and empowering parents to seek appropriate redress,” Chapman said. “That has been and will continue to be my goal.”
In a speech on the first day of the legislative session, Chapman described a so-called “sinister curriculum” in Iowa schools and said some teachers are “disguising sexually obscene material as desired subject matter.”
Asked about Chapman’s comments, Whitver said that was not the approach he would take.
“That’s not how I try to communicate messages. What I think is the most effective way is to pitch ideas and get your point across to the people of Iowa,” said he said on the show. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Learn more about education: Iowa Legislature braces for heated debates over library books and private scholarships
Discontent over the content of school library books has been simmering for weeks, as parents have approached school boards in Iowa and across the country to challenge literature they describe as sexually explicit, vulgar and inappropriate for the children.
Books often feature stories of LGBTQ people and people of color. Many students and librarians say that students can be trusted to make decisions for themselves and that in some cases the material has proven essential for students to understand who they are.
Learn more about education: Iowa Senate Speaker Jake Chapman says press and teachers have ‘sinister agenda’
Whitver said he supports Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to require schools to post lists of their teaching materials and library books online for parents and the public to see. Reynolds said some books “would be X-rated if they were movies.”
“We hear the concerns of parents and our job is to listen to those concerns and try to address them,” Whitver said. “I think adding transparency is a really good way to do that, make sure our parents have a seat at the table in their children’s education, give them a process to address their concerns. “
Learn more about education: Iowa Governor Reynolds targets ‘X-rated’ books in schools and ‘transparency’ in statehood speech