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Iowa republicans propose changes to school policies regarding gender identity, sexual orientation

While supporters believe House File 8 and House File 9 give more power to parents, those against say they're concerned the bills will cause young people harm.

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During the first week of the 2023 Iowa legislative session, Iowa House Republicans introduced House File 8 and House File 9. 

House File 8 would make it illegal for schools to teach about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.

Supporters say the measure is meant to give power to parents when it comes to deciding when and how to introduce LGBTQ+ topics to their kids. 

However, opponents are concerned the legislation will ultimately hurt students.

"This is going to remove the very few tools that educators have in their toolbox to address bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," said Keenan Crow, director of policy and advocacy for One Iowa. "If you can't name it, you can't address it properly."

Crow believes the legislation could also confuse instructors when it comes to existing curriculum

"Everyone has both a sexual orientation and gender identity, right? It's not just trans people. It's not just gay people," Crow said. "And so [if] folks want to be able to say that George Washington was a man and was married to Martha Washington. Uh-oh, we've just prevented people from doing that."

House File 9 prohibits schools from recognizing or affirming a student's preferred gender identity without written consent from their parents.

Republican sponsors say this empowers parents to have these conversations with their children, allowing families, not schools, to help decide the best way to move forward. 

"But we all know that that's not going to be the case for every child out there," said Leslie Carpenter, cofounder of Iowa Mental Health Advocacy. "There will be instances where it's going to put them at risk for verbal abuse within the home [or] being kicked out of the home. And it's probably honestly going to result in suicides."

The bill also makes it illegal for a school district to keep a student's gender identity or any intention to transition a secret from their parents. 

Opponents believe the bill would lead to school staff outing some young people. 

"It doesn't exempt school counselors, which are on school staff," Crow said.
"And that's going to force them to violate both the trust of that student and their professional code of ethics and being forced to disclose things to parents."

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