DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Safe Schools was close to banning conversion therapy during the 2020 legislative session, which the pandemic abruptly ended.
Republican State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann helped champion the group's bill in the House. The group said Kaufmann will work to introduce a similar bill this year in the Iowa House, while State Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls will introduce the companion legislation in the Iowa Senate.
In all, Iowa Safe Schools has five legislative priorities, according to Damian Thompson, director of Public Policy and Communications.
- Banning conversion therapy
- Adding gender identity to the state's hate crimes law
- Thompson said only sexual orientation is recognized under current law.
- Updating the state's suicide prevention law
- Thompson said the law needs to better identify high-risk youth, whether that means homeless youth or those who are LGBTQ.
- Updating the state's anti-bullying law
- Thompson said the group will also work to create an anti-bullying commission of experts through the Department of Education. This has bipartisan hopes.
- Creating an inclusive school curriculum.
"Right now, our sex education is very heteronormative, so not very inclusive of LGBT folks, let alone transgender students. A lot of our students come away feeling like they learned nothing at all," said Thompson.
He likened what can be done to the social studies subject of a school's curriculum to holding up a window and mirror.
"For those that may not be minority status, it's a window for them to see into the experiences and contributions of persons of color, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ folks," Thompson said.
For those who may be of minority status, seeing themselves represented in the curriculum is a mirror; to see positive role models in the classroom.