News (USA)

Iowa Republicans want to ban teachers from talking about transgender people

An elementary school girl ashamed in class as other girls laugh at her, with a teacher in the background
Photo: Shutterstock

Republicans in the state of Iowa are trying to ban schools from teaching about gender identity.

A bill (S.F. 167) would update elementary school curriculum standards in the state to say, “The curriculum provided to a student in accordance with this subsection shall not include instruction relating to gender identity.” The bill says that if teachers do intend to discuss gender identity in school, they’ll need to get written permission from all the students’ parents first.

Related: 31 anti-transgender bills filed in 20 states as GOP targets schoolchildren nationwide

The bill, introduced by eight Republican state lawmakers, does not block schools from using the concept of gender at all. It requires that teachers not discuss the idea that there is a “gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”

In other words, teachers wouldn’t be able to mention that transgender people exist, even if there is a transgender student in the classroom.

Gag orders in other states and countries that block schools from discussing LGBTQ people – like Russia’s ban on LGBTQ “propaganda,” Utah’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, or the U.K.’s Section 28 that banned discussions of homosexuality in schools – have been criticized for promoting bullying. Teachers may feel that they would be breaking the law if they tell students not to bully a non-binary or transgender classmate or if they use the correct pronouns or the name of a transgender student.

The bill “is just another way to prevent children from learning about how they may differ from societal norms,” wrote editor Peyton Downing in the Daily Iowan. “By denying an education on gender identity, these schools prevent kids from garnering an understanding of who they really are.”

“To a young trans kid, that information could mean the difference between self-hatred and loathing for a decade or being able to understand who they are. Kids already have an understanding of their gender identity by the time they’re four years old — it’s not as though understanding what it means to be transgender is too complex for them.”

Iowa Republicans have introduced several other bills to restrict transgender rights. One of the other bills would ban transgender people from using the bathroom associated with their gender, another would require schools to out transgender youth to their parents if they even ask to be referred to with the correct pronouns at school, and another bill would ban transgender student-athletes from competing in school sports as their gender.

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