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What should schools report to parents? Here's what Senate file 496 says, how lawmakers feel

Republican lawmakers told Local 5 nicknames aren't and were never part of this law, while other officials said SF 496 has put teachers in a tough position.

DES MOINES, Iowa — A controversial new education law, Senate File 496, is putting more on educators' plates this school year by requiring they monitor the names kids use in the classroom. 

The law states that if a student wants to use a name that is different from the gender identity assigned to the student's registration, then administrators must notify the parents.

As the school year has started, schools have begun to notify parents about any name change their students request. 

This has sparked conversations and confusion about the use of nicknames in schools. 

"To find out that they just won't trust your kid, that this is what they want to be called and respect that, because that's what the law says, they can't. Teachers' licenses are on the line, so our schools have to follow the law," said Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Dallas County.

Republican lawmakers are responding, saying the use of nicknames are not even brought up in this bill. 

"My message is please stop it. Please don't put words in our mouth, please don't confuse parents and Iowans with talk of things that the legislature didn't do. That's not responsible, that's not helpful," Ken Rozenboom said, R-Marion County. 

Skyler Wheeler, a Republican state representative and education chair, shared a statement that reads in part:

“This portion of the bill is intended to make sure that schools can’t hide a child’s gender transition from their parents. The requirement of approval over a student’s name change only applies when it is 'intended to affirm the student’s gender identity.' Nicknames aren’t and never were a part of this bill.

Schools should never be keeping secrets from parents about their children. Unfortunately, some Iowa school districts had policies that intentionally kept parents in the dark about their own child’s life. Thanks to Iowa House Republicans, that will no longer be the case.”

Meanwhile, union officials said they are frustrated with the lack of guidance by the Iowa Board of Education, which they said is driving new practices like nickname reporting.

"When these bills are established by legislators, they need to be very thoughtful in the implication of anything that they sign into law. [It] could have effects on our schools that were unintended," said Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek. 


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