'Moms for Liberty' calls on Iowa legislature to rid schools of 'inappropriate' books'
Five Iowa moms, all members of the conservative "Moms for Liberty" group, made their case to Iowa lawmakers Monday evening about their efforts to remove or limit inappropriate books in schools.
"This legislature needs to come together and find common ground on protecting children from obscenity," said Mandy Gilbert, a Johnston parent and secretary for the Polk County Moms for Liberty chapter.
The House Government Oversight Committee invited the women to speak about their attempts to appeal certain books to their local school boards.
Although the public was not invited to testify, the Capitol's largest conference room was packed with activists on either side of the issue — some nodding along during the speeches and others wearing shirts declaring their opposition to banning books.
On a large monitor at the front of the room, the speakers scrolled through images from graphic novels such as "Gender Queer" and "Fun Home," two memoirs about LGBTQ sexual awakening and coming of age. They also read aloud passages from books that discuss masturbation, sexual activity, incest or rape among minors.
"Would you read this out loud to your children and grandchildren? Why not?" asked Carroll resident Amy Dea, after reading an explicit passage from "Sold," a National Book Award finalist about a girl caught in sex trafficking. "Because it is not age appropriate. It is obscene and sexually explicit. No student should have access to this filth in our school."
After reading the passages, the women recounted the administrative difficulties of challenging the books. Several of their school districts undertook months-long reconsideration processes, they said, but ultimately declined to remove the books from curriculum or require parental consent before kids can access them.
"The process is too subjective, too lengthy, and frankly, there are too many inappropriate books that need to be removed from our schools," said Pam Gronau, an Urbandale mother and legislation chair for the Polk County Moms for Liberty.
Democrats on the committee noted that the parents were able to successfully prevent their own children from accessing certain books they disagreed with, even if the books were not removed or limited to all students.
"My question is … whether the process actually, fundamentally failed them, or were they simply unhappy with the outcome?" asked Rep. Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, speaking with reporters after the event.
Rep. Brooke Boden, an Indianola Republican and the chair of the Government Oversight Committee, said lawmakers will also hear from school administrators on the issue.
Outside the committee room, a small group held signs that condemned book banning. Former Iowa teacher Alena Treat said she's concerned the push against inappropriate books is part of a larger effort to remove LGBTQ representation from schools.
"If you don't like a particular book, you go to the school board," said Treat. "You don't have to have legislation that can be used to ban anything that's pro-LGBTQ, which is where this is heading."
Controversial school books and curricula have been a central theme of Iowa politics in recent years.
Gov. Kim Reynolds staked her reelection campaign on "parents' rights" and pushed for the swift passage of a law to provide state funds to families who attend private schools.
Within the first weeks of the legislative session, Republican leaders introduced a slew of bills to restrict LGBTQ curriculum, create penalties for teaching some forbidden concepts, and provide more transparency to parents.
Reynolds spoke at a Moms for Liberty event last week. She promised to end "indoctrination" in public schools and to back legislation that would give parents more oversight into which books are made available to students.
Katie Akin is a politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 410-340-3440. Follow her on Twitter at @katie_akin
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Moms for Liberty' pushes to rid Iowa schools of 'inappropriate' books'