House Republicans are designing their special government oversight public hearings on school book banning so that they only get input from parents who agree with them.
Last week, the House Government Oversight Committee met to hear from five women who want books removed or restricted from their school libraries and curricula. Legislative Republicans decided this year to hold special listening sessions at the Statehouse to look into book concerns pushed by right-wing activists—these are separate from regular committee hearings on proposed bills.
Opponents to the book-ban push were frustrated that only one side got to speak on the topic, but Republicans noted they’d have a follow-up hearing.
However, State Rep. Brooke Boden (R-Indianola) told a parent group that the other hearing won’t allow input from parents opposed to the censorship push, but instead focus on school administrators.
“Annie’s Foundation reached out to Brooke Monday evening after leaving the supposedly ‘open’ session that conveniently only allowed for members of Moms For Liberty to speak,” Founder and President Sara Hayden Parris said in a statement. “All of the Moms For Liberty were, of course, in favor of banning books. After 5 days and a follow-up email, Brooke finally responded, saying that school administrators and school board members would speak at a hearing scheduled on the 20th.”
Those parents at the Feb. 6 hearing explained how they learned about the books, their unsuccessful attempts to have the books removed at their schools, and read small pieces from a variety of books they said they’d found in their school libraries.
All five said they were members of Moms for Liberty, a national, far-right group known for flagging books for removal by reading cherry-picked, out-of-context passages. Those books often deal with LGBTQ characters or topics, and/or with race.
When asked by Democrats on the committee, Boden confirmed they would hear from school administrators about these books and the process. But apparently not other parents.
“We again asked when parents representing the other side would be given a chance to speak and were shut down, with Brooke claiming that the hearing is about the book challenge process only,” Parris said in her statement.
Annie’s Foundation is a Johnston-based, anti-book banning organization that has been promoting and sharing reviews and summaries of books that have flagged at schools.
According to their website, their mission is: “To ensure members of our community have unhindered access to books with characters and subjects that reflect the diversity and complexity of the world around them.”
Republicans have pursued a raft of anti-LGBTQ legislation this year, including two to prohibit instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity and one that would require schools to inform parents if their child wants to use a different name or pronouns, regardless of whether the student’s parents would accept them.
Last week, Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced her own bill which has more extreme versions of both the education prohibition and the forced outing provisions. It would also require any book removed from a school district to be put in a statewide list by the Iowa Department of Education. Students would need parental permission before checking out a book that appears on that list.
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