Iowa schools required to inform parents about changes to child’s pronouns

The Iowa Board of Education has unanimously endorsed regulations for a comprehensive education law that mandates educators to inform parents and caregivers if their child requests to use different pronouns.

The regulations, initially proposed last autumn, aim to assist Iowa school authorities in navigating particular aspects of state legislation regarding informing families about a student’s gender identity. The law also necessitates schools to maintain an online library catalog and criteria for determining age-appropriate instruction.

Specifically, the one-year-old law mandates school administrators to notify a student’s family about any pronoun modifications that deviate from the child’s sex at birth or a new name intended to validate the child’s gender identity. Educators are also prohibited from concealing information or providing misinformation to parents and caregivers concerning a student’s gender identity.

Opponents of the recent Iowa policy and other state and local regulations that prevent school personnel from notifying parents if children wish to use alternative names or pronouns have argued that the mandate will involuntarily disclose students. This decision arrives as schools nationwide aim to eliminate or prohibit protections for transgender and nonbinary students to adhere to state directives.

The Lynchburg City Public Schools board in Virginia is one of the districts that have embraced Governor Glenn Youngkin’s policy prohibiting transgender and nonbinary students from altering their names or pronouns at school without written authorization from their parents.

Related:Iowa schools are requesting parental consent to use nicknames — irrespective of gender identity

The situation in Iowa on book bans and gender identity

The enactment of the regulations during Thursday’s Board of Education session was complicated by two ongoing federal lawsuits against Senate File 496, the legislation that triggered the new obligation to notify parents when children seek to adjust their pronouns.

Both lawsuits were submitted within days of each other in November 2023 by the ACLU of Iowa and Lambda Legal on behalf of several Iowa families and the Iowa State Education Association, Penguin Random House, authors impacted by book bans due to the legislation, numerous educators, and a parent.

Certain sections of the legislation related to the book restrictions are presently on pause due to a federal restraining order. Consequently, the long-awaited regulations do not encompass segments of the legislation connected to the prohibition of most books featuring sexual content and the ban on teaching topics concerning sexual orientation and gender identity up to the sixth grade.

Iowa Department of Education’s chief legal counsel, Thomas Mayes, informed the assembly that he would not discuss any sections of Senate File 496 currently under the restraining order.

“This is not the appropriate venue to deliberate over legal strategies during a public meeting,” Mayes stated.

Here is a comprehensive overview of the Iowa Board of Education’s revisions to its Chapter 12 regulations.

Related:Iowa’s book ban impact: 3,400 books removed, including ‘1984’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Related:Iowa’s proposed regulations on banning books in schools have been revealed. Here are the key points:

Are there repercussions for violating the state mandate?

The regulations specify penalties for school personnel who infringe upon the law by withholding information or providing inaccurate details concerning a student’s gender identity.

A first violation would likely result in a warning. Subsequent violations would lead to a hearing by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners and further disciplinary action.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ and similar bills:LGBTQ youths feel they’re ‘getting crushed’

Documents confirm that the regulations become effective starting Aug. 28, 2024.

Contributed: Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY

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