Penguin Random House, authors and teachers with the Iowa State Education Association filed a lawsuit against Iowa State Board of Education officials on Thursday, claiming that a law banning pornographic books in schools is unconstitutional, according to court documents.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law, SF496, in May, which bars books discussing gender identity in kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms and requires educators to keep parents informed if their child expresses a desire to change their gender identity, according to the Associated Press. The plaintiffs, however, argued in the lawsuit that the ban is “unconstitutionally vague.” (RELATED: Rand Paul Performed Heimlich On Iowa Senator Joni Ernst)
“First, under the pretext of protecting students from ‘pornography,’ Senate File 496 prohibits books in school libraries and classroom collections that contain a description or visual depiction of a ‘sex act,'” the lawsuit reads. “This restriction applies to all grades, kindergarten through twelfth grade, without consideration of the book as a whole, only excepting religious books. By so broadly regulating the display and availability of books that are constitutionally protected as to at least a significant number of students, this standard violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments because it is an impermissible content-based restriction, restricts access to constitutionally protected books, and is unconstitutionally vague.”
Penguin Random Publishing House said in a press release that Iowa’s attempt to remove discussions about “any depiction of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation” was a violation of the “core principle of the Constitution.” The Iowa State Education Association claimed that Iowa legislators’ concerns about pornographic books were simply a “pretext and contrary to the definition of obscenity,” according to its press release.
The lawsuit claims that the books that have been removed are not “pornography,” that the law’s use of the term “sex act” is too vague, and that “a book is not obscene as to minors if it has serious value for a legitimate minority of minors, such as older minors.” The plaintiffs also argue that the prohibition on discussing gender identity and sexual orientation for younger grades could bar discussions of any gender at all, including a “person’s gender or the gender of their partner in a relationship or marriage.”
“This country has long upheld the principle that authors have the right to communicate their stories and ideas to the public, including students, and that students have a right to explore, choose, and learn from those books without discriminatory interference from the government,” Anke Steinecke, EVP, Chief Legal Officer and General Council, Penguin Random House, said in the ISEA press release. “Statutes like SF 496 undermine these important rights and wrongfully subject librarians and educators and school districts to a penalty just for doing their jobs.”
“Senate File 496 keeps explicit books and materials with graphic descriptions or depictions of sex acts out of the hands of children in school,” the Iowa State Board of Education told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Iowa Department of Education will continue to implement this law as statutorily required.”
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