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385 books are removed from Urbandale School District, making some question the implementation process

Part of SF 496 requires schools to remove books describing or visual depictions of a sex act, and some are frustrated with the lack of guidance from lawmakers.

URBANDALE, Iowa — The Urbandale Community School District removed 385 books from their school libraries and classrooms, according to a from a FOIA request by Annie's Foundation

This long list of books being removed is bringing questions and frustrations about the implementation process of Senate File 496, which requires schools to remove books describing or visual depictions of a sex act and became law on July 1. 

"I'm afraid without that guidance we are going to see a patchwork of implementation from across the state because different districts might go about handling it different, differently and that just creates confusion both for our education professionals and also for our students," said Melissa Peterson, the legislative and policy director of the Iowa State Education Association.

In a statement from Urbandale Community School District on the implementation, they say in part: "In the absence of guidance from the Iowa Department of Education regarding implementation of Senate File 496, we had to take a fairly broad interpretation of the law knowing that if our interpretation was too finite ... our teachers and administrators could be faced with disciplinary actions."

After Annie's Foundation submitted the FOIA request, it wasn't what they expected.

"So I got that list within a few days and was shocked certainly to see all the different books that were on there, especially specifically the case rate list is quite lengthy," said Sara Hayden Parris, president and founder of Annie's Foundation. 

ISEA is also evaluating and advising schools after seeing this first list.

"As we saw from the Urbandale list there were a lot of books that have nothing to do with the depiction of a sex act that also were on their list. We don't want that kind of patchwork," Peterson said. 

To overcome this and get involved now, Peterson said "I would encourage parents and community members to participate in those school board meetings and in those conversations to make sure that access to quality literature and instruction is not being unnecessarily prohibited because districts are being overly cautious."

ISEA also says now is the time to put pressure on the Department of Education for more guidance on the implementation process. 

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