URBANDALE, IOWA — Before the 2023-24 school year begins, students and school board members are worrying about what kind of literature will be banned for students
An organization called Annie’s Foundation posted a list of nearly 400 books the Urbandale Community School District is sending to teachers, of which will be banned from the curriculum. The list stems from Senate File 496 which just passed last legislative session. The bill bans sexual orientation and gender identity in instruction in grades K-6. Along with requiring all schools to remove books that include sexual content.
“The teachers have spent years curating these classroom libraries and texts and curriculums that have now basically been thrown out of the window,” said Hailie Bonz, an incoming senior at Urbandale High School and Study Body President. “What the senate file does is it reduced these literary works to a few isolated features, failing to recognize the text as a whole.”
Books such as Catch 22 and The Catcher in the Rye are now prohibited from instruction in Urbandale schools for the upcoming school year.
“I think it was just really frustrating as a whole for a lot of students,” said Bonz. “I’m involved in a lot of AP and college-level courses and so for me, I was in AP Lit. last year and so I read some amazing books. And so I’m going forward and taking Advanced Comp. this year. And so I won’t be able to study 1984 or The Color Purple and a lot of those books that are so important and so critical for those curriculums.”
An Urbandale Community School District board member reached out to WHO 13 News about the story, and his concern for the community as a whole. He said that none of the board was consulted in the decision-making process, board members just found out after it was sent out to teachers.
“Currently our superintendent and the lawyers that she talks to, because I can guarantee you that no teacher, no student, no parent, no board member work consulted about this,” said Dan Gutmann, an Urbandale School District Board member. “You know, there’s going to be a risk for litigation no matter how districts decide to comply with this legislation. And I find it so incredibly disturbing that the default in Urbandale schools is to side on the side of the censors.”
Gutmann and Bonz both believe that the law is extremely vague but specific with restrictions on gender identity and sexual orientation. They believe that the school district is casting a wide net to remove books that could be deemed “problematic” before there are any complaints from parents on the literature. In doing this, it requires teachers to go through a challenge process to get a specific book removed from the list and back into lessons.
Bonz and Gutmann are calling on members of the Urbandale community to contact teachers, administration, and board members to highlight their concerns. Along with telling other public school districts to be aware, because this type of action could take place in their neck of the woods.