OPINION: Iowa’s Not So Welcoming Bill

Iowa Bill SF496 passed in May and is doing more harm than good to students.
OPINION: Iowas Not So Welcoming Bill

On May 26, 2023, Bill SF496 was passed in Iowa. This bill gives parents access to what media their child consumes in school including books,  discussions and education. Not only is this harmful to the students but also harmful to the entire state of Iowa and its reputation of being a “welcoming” state.

With this bill, if a student wants to go by a different name or is suspected of being other than their assigned biological sex, the teacher or school would be required to tell their parents and they’ll be forcibly outed. But this bill isn’t just affecting queer kids, it’s also affecting the education of all by restricting information about diseases like HIV or HPV and not allowing students to check out LGBTQ+ books without permission from their guardians. 

How are students supposed to be safe in school when they have to be worried about their teachers outing them to their parents? No one should live in fear of violence for being themselves. As someone who is openly queer I have witnessed countless acts of homophobia with people saying slurs towards the community. The LGBTQ+ community is already a minority facing discrimination every day, and the passing of this bill doesn’t help the fact that it’s getting worse. Students who wish to be referred to by different pronouns will be reported by the teacher to their parents. How are schools supposed to be safe when kids attending the school won’t even feel welcomed or comfortable?

FAST FACTS: Iowa Bill SF496
K-6 Instruction

Bill SF496 prohibits instruction that relates to sexual orientation or gender identify for Kindergarten through 6th grade.

Name and Pronoun Accomodation

Teachers and Administrators must notify parents if a student requests a name or pronoun accommodation that is different than the information presented in the school records. After notifying parents, the parents must give permission for the accommodation to be used.

School Libraries

All books in K-12 libraries must be deemed as "age appropriate." Books deemed as age appropriate should not include any visual depiction of any sex act.

Surveying Students

Parental consent is needed for any surveys given to students relating to the student's mental, physical and/ or emotional health. The parent must be given access to the survey seven days prior to it being distributed to provide consent.

Parental consent must be given for any surveys about political affiliation, sexual behavior, mental/ psychological problems, religious beliefs or income.

According to The Trevor Project, a majority percent of the LGBTQ+ community faces suicide, sexual assault and abuse in their lifetime. The SF496 Bill might raise the risks even higher.  Although the bill only prohibits LGBTQ+ content and Sex Education to grades K-6 it is still very harmful to see something natural being restricted.

Gina Weekley, Head of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Waterloo Schools, stated that “ upon hearing of the bill’s passage, my initial reaction was one of profound disappointment. I feared the potential repercussions of the bill, especially if its provisions were not adequately understood by all stakeholders. However, rather than being mired in disappointment, I felt an urgency to rise to the challenge. It’s essential that our students, staff, and families continue to feel safe, respected, and a sense of belonging in our institutions.” The issue with the bill is that it makes the students feel unsafe in school. 

“I grapple with comprehending the full intentions behind this bill, especially given the potential adversities it might present for marginalized communities. From possible threats like unintentionally outing students to limiting educational resources on topics like sexually transmitted diseases, physical education, and financial literacy – the bill seems skewed against marginalized groups. Such legislation, passed, leads me to wonder whether our students’ best interests were a primary concern,” Weekly explained. Weekly’s response leads to the question if there was even thought of what would happen to the children being affected by this bill. 

Back in late February, news spread over social media about the bill and walk-outs were planned to protest the bill. Students participated in a small walk-out here at West High last spring. As a couple of students who didn’t fear what they might face from the walk-out they did prove that in the future LGBTQ+ will continue to fight for their rights even when the law prohibits them.

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About the Contributor
(They/them) Fernanda Jimenez Crudo is a Sophomore at West High and this is their first year on the Wahawk Insider staff. Outside of Wahawk Insider, they like music and reading. In their personal time they enjoy skating, making comics, and playing video games.
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