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Iowa lawmakers consider banning transgender girls from girls' sports, charging teachers who allow 'obscene' books in classroom

In a busy day for education policy, some argued parents need stronger measures to keep inappropriate books out of schools—including potential jail time for teachers.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The debate over controversial books and their place in Iowa schools continued Thursday as a subcommittee discussed Senate President Jake Chapman's bill to ban "obscene material and hardcore pornography" from schools and charge educators who allow those materials with a misdemeanor.

"The fact we are having this conversation should terrify all of us," Chapman said. "That we're literally talking about pornography in school."

Republican Sen. Jason Schultz said he believes Senate File 2198 is an ideological debate between the left and the right. 

"The left destroys every institution that it moves into and takes over," Schultz said during the hearing. "And we're seeing that now." 

Meanwhile the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) is fighting back, saying the notion teachers would intentionally harm students is offensive. Melissa Peterson, who works as a governmental relationship specialist for ISEA, added there are already selection processes to vet these books and reconsideration policies which give families the opportunity to challenge material they find offensive. 

"In the context of a severe worker shortage and in the context of two of the most challenging years in education I've seen in my lifetime, we seem to be going out of our way to threaten education professionals," Peterson said. "We are threatening to put them in jail."

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Another piece of legislation would ban transgender women and girls from participating in sports with the gender they identify with. These transgender athletes would only be allowed to participate in male sports under the proposal. Supporters say it protects girls' sports. 

"I think at the end of the day it's the responsibility and legislature to make sure that we are protecting girls' sports," said House Speaker Pat Grassley. "And I just think that again, that's something that this bill is able to achieve that in a very clear manner following the path of a lot of other states."

Opponents argue the bill would be discriminating against those transgender athletes.

"So really, what this is about is about targeting an already marginalized group of children, children who are already at increased risk for adverse mental health outcomes and suicide " said Keenan Crow with One Iowa, an LGBTQ rights organization.

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WATCH | Iowa teacher says '10 Divisive Concepts' law hasn't impacted curriculum, but caused confusion 

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