Sarah Trone Garriott didn’t mince words when talking about Jake Chapman, her Iowa Senate colleague and upcoming opponent—thanks to redistricting—and his continued assault on teachers, including a new bill he introduced to prosecute educators over books he feels are obscene.
“Iowa schools have been critically underfunded for years—and it’s taken a toll. Threatening educators, demonizing them is making the teacher shortage worse. If Jake Chapman would ever show up at a school board forum or visit the schools in the district he would know that.”
Chapman, an Adel Republican and president of the Iowa Senate, vowed to send teachers to jail for distributing books he viewed as obscene, although his view didn’t match the existing legal definition.
Now Chapman will attempt to change the law to get his wish.
He introduced SF 2198 on Thursday, a wide-ranging bill that covers everything from civil litigation to how long a teacher should be placed in jail for assigning certain books to stripping county attorneys of legal immunity for not acting on obscene material cases in a timely manner.
Chapman’s bill punishes teachers and administrators for assigning reading materials considered obscene, which is used interchangeably with “hardcore pornography.”
The bill describes hardcore pornography as “material depicting patently offensive representations of oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse, actual or simulated, involving humans, or depicting patently offensive representations of masturbation, excretory functions or bestiality, or lewd exhibition of the genitals, which the average adult taking the material as a whole in applying statewide contemporary community standards would find appeals to the prurient interest; and which material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, scientific, political, or artistic value.”
Chapman’s crusade against books began in the fall when some parents began showing up to school board meetings in the Des Moines suburbs to complain about books written by people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community.
His bill allows parents to take legal and civil action against teachers/administrators and schools for providing the materials. If a teacher knowingly gives a student obscene material, it would be considered a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $430-$2,560 and they would lose their teaching license.
If a parent successfully sues a school for exposing their child to materials deemed obscene, the school would be responsible for both parties’ legal fees. The school would also be assessed a civil penalty of $500 for each day a violation occurred while the case is litigated. The civil penalty amount would be turned over to the Iowa State Treasurer’s Office to be added to the state’s general fund.
This bill would also strip county attorneys of absolute prosecutorial immunity in these types of cases.
If a parent’s lawsuit is successful, a copy of the order and a copy of the law would be submitted by certified mail to the county attorney’s office of the county where the teacher or administrator worked for additional legal action.
If the county attorney does not take legal action within 60 days of being notified of a potential violation with probable cause, the parents could then sue the county attorney for actual damages and a penalty of no less than $1,000 a day for each day the county attorney failed to take action.
by Ty Rushing