Zaun Also Supports Prosecuting Teachers Over Books In School

Brad Zaun official headshot

Earlier this month, Republican State Sen. Brad Zaun said he also supports charging teachers with felonies for having “obscene” books on school bookshelves and removing those books from schools.

At an initial reconsideration committee meeting on Nov. 10 for Johnston Community School District, Zaun said he would work hard to create legislation to charge teachers with felonies for allowing students to read books that include characters or the authors discovering and exploring their identities and sexualities.

He called those books inappropriate for students.

“My warning to all the teachers and the administrators is you’re going to be in jail,” he said. “Because this is distributing pornography. And I will work my tail end off and it will become law.”

Zaun said that as the president of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he would support the proposed legislation passing through his committee.

“I would have to say I’m sick to my stomach that it’s going to take another meeting,” Zaun said.”In the meantime, this garbage curriculum or books are being taught to our kids. And I can assure you that I will be working on this legislation next year in regards to enhancing the penalties.”

The current penalty for distributing pornography is a misdemeanor, so any enhancement would make it a felony.

Chapman said the same thing at the second meeting on Nov. 18.

“I can tell you, if this material was in my school, I’d be going to law enforcement. I would be asking for a criminal investigation. I would be asking for every single teacher who disseminated that information to be held criminally responsible,” Chapman told the reconsideration committee then. “If we need to, as the state of Iowa, provide deeper clarity when it comes to that and enhance those penalties, I will do that.”

Calls to ban books over content have also happened in Waukee and Urbandale. The books targeted explore the authors’ or characters’ LGBTQ identities, and the journey to understand those identities.

None of the books qualify as pornography or obscenity, according to Iowa law. Serious literature, accredited schools, and public libraries are exempted from Iowa obscenity laws.

The books in question at Johnston were “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexei and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is a novel by a Native author, about a 14-year-old Native boy who lives on a reservation in Washington. It deals with the clash between living in and growing up in poverty, but attending a wealthy, mostly white high school because of the better opportunities. The character, Junior, struggles with his identity, fitting in in two different places and handling the obstacles of being a minority and of life on a reservation.

The author has said the book is semi-autobiographical.

“The Hate U Give” is about a 16-year-old Black girl, Starr, who balances living in a poor neighborhood but attending a private prep school. She witnesses a childhood friend killed by a police officer, and when the story begins making headlines, amid social and external pressures, Starr has to decide whether to tell the world what really happened.

Two parents complained about mentions of sex and discussions about race and racial identity, and the way society responds to race.

Ultimately, the committee recommended the books stay on shelves for students. The committee also suggested finding a better way to tell parents about the books students may read in class, who they should contact with questions and the process for requesting alternative material.

Superintendent Laura Kacer agreed with the committee and made the announcement Nov. 23.

Students, teachers, and parents have been pushing back against these efforts to ban books. At the Nov. 18 meeting, several students stood up to defend the books and their access to them. Students in Urbandale have said the conversation is embarrassing, and students at Waukee have said the efforts are exhausting and frustrating.


by Nikoel Hytrek

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11 Comments on "Zaun Also Supports Prosecuting Teachers Over Books In School"

  • As a mother of three adult kids, and grandmother to five, Mr. Zahn needs a lesson in Really teaching children. If a book is banned, kids will find that book and read it!! Public library will provide the books.

  • So the assumption is that teachers are putting these thoughts into our middle schooler’s heads…Newsflash, BRAD, our students are teaching US about what it is like to be in their skin at their age and are telling us about the books they are reading. Denying a child the right to check out a book in their library doesn’t automatically guarantee they won’t find it somewhere else, and none of it is pornographic, although some of it is hard to fathom if you have never struggled with sexual identity or tried to fit in when you don’t feel interested in what girls are talking about, but also don’t feel like you fit in with the guys…it does at times seem like the latest fad, and some of what I have read is cringeworthy, I hardly believe that reading a book about a confused kid and his/her search for meaning and identification will convert any students who don’t also struggle with that. Sexuality isn’t caught through reading about the struggles of other’s search for meaning. Some of those books really sound like they were written by an author who is still struggling. There is too much anger portrayed in a third grade boy who feels like he is really a girl throughout the story in one book I read. It just didn’t seem realistic, but it definitely was not pornographic, no matter how it is spun.

  • What about that one book with all the supernatural goings-on, with the violence and murder and sex and slavery and genocides and nailing people to trees? That sure seemed obscene to me. Why, I bet the author wasn’t really a King and his name probably wasn’t even James.

  • Why would you treat educators like crimminals over a book that is published in America?
    How many laws you gonna make for non violent human behavior, right or wrong iowa sure do pass alot of laws that are later ruled by Iowa United Supreme court as unconst.
    You already let the cops get basicly fired for untruthfulness and still get rehired. But teachers beware boys in blue be watchin for you. This gender deal not porn .
    Ya let some of the catholic priests slide out of their behavior.

  • Trying to keep up here! I checked out “The Hate U Give” today and read the first six chapters already. Easy reading. So far I can’t see why anyone would ban it.

  • The next legislative session promises to be even worse than I expected, and I was already expecting it to be very bad.

  • I’m sure the things kids are watching on TV or on social media is way worse! LEAVE THE BOOKS ALONE!!! God forbid, a kid may want to read something they can identify with!

  • As an educator I never thought the days of book burning and tossing Roe vs Wade would return. It is so sad that serious issues are ignored. Trump is evil.🥲He gave permission for these creatures to try to over throw our democracy.

  • I have a suggestion about where Zaun and his GOP buddies may place their Index Librorum Prohibitorum. It’s not a very family friendly suggestion, so I’ll leave it to everyone’s imaginations where that place happens to be.

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