Anti-LGBTQ Legislation in Education Guide
The 2023-2024 academic year includes new anti-LGBTQ legislation that will significantly impact queer students’ ability to thrive in school. From book bans, forced outings of trans students to their parents without consent, and a ban on discussing gender identity or sexual orientation with students in K-6. These bills are complex and hard to understand for the everyday parent or teacher.
This explainer gives parents and teachers a better understanding of the bills and how they will work in classrooms. For further questions, reach out to our Policy & Advocacy Director Keenan Crow (they/them) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t Say Gay / Don’t Say Trans (SF496):
Actual text: A school district shall not provide any program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion, or instruction relating to gender identity or sexual orientation to students in kindergarten through grade six.
Some districts intend to create policies that apply to all schools which will mean it applies K-12, but this is not what the law requires. Parents and community members should push back aggressively against any such policy.
School book ban (SF496):
Actual text: Each school district shall establish a kindergarten through grade twelve library program that is consistent with section 280.6 and with the educational standards established in this section, contains only age-appropriate materials, and supports the student achievement goals of the total school curriculum.
Actual text: “Age-appropriate” does not include any material with descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act as defined in section 702.17.
Means any book with any depiction of sex acts must be removed from school library shelves, K-12.
Urbandale School District has already given us an indication of what this may look like. A list of books they are removing can be found here.
Iowa Department of Education has promised guidance to districts before the law goes into effect. Districts would do well to resist removing materials until their hands are forced.
Trans student accommodations (SF496):
Actual text: If a student enrolled in a school district requests accommodation that is intended to affirm the student’s gender identity from a licensed practitioner employed by the school district, including a request that the licensed practitioner address the student using a name or pronoun that is different than the name or pronoun assigned to the student in the school district’s registration forms or records, the licensed practitioner shall report the student’s request to an administrator employed by the school district, and the administrator shall report the student’s request to the student’s parent or guardian.
Means trans students will have to get parental permission for any accommodations, and any requests made to educators will automatically be reported to parents. This will potentially out students against their will.
Forced outing of LGBTQ students (SF496):
Actual text: A school district shall not knowingly give false or misleading information to the parent or guardian of a student regarding the student’s gender identity or intention to transition to a gender that is different than the sex listed on a student’s official birth certificate or certificate issued upon adoption if the certificate was issued at or near the time.
Means any student that identifies themselves as transgender or non-binary will be immediately outed to their parents without their consent.
Also automatically notifies parents after any incident of bullying, and could potentially out those students if they bullying is related to either their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Transgender restroom restrictions (SF482):
Actual text: A school shall require a multiple occupancy restroom or changing area to be designated only for and used by persons of the same sex. A person shall not enter a multiple occupancy restroom or changing area, or a single occupancy restroom or changing area designated only for persons of the same sex, that does not correspond with the person’s sex.
Sex is defined as “a person’s biological sex as female or male, as listed on a person’s official birth certificate issued at or near the time of the person’s birth.”
Means transgender students will no longer be able to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identities if policies are changed in response to a complaint.
Enforcement mechanism relies on citizen complaints. If no one complains, nothing must happen. If someone does complain, a district has 3 days to cure their policies before the Attorney General can bring legal action.
Parents and community members should advocate for accessible single-stall facilities that any student can use regardless of gender or sex assigned at birth.
HIV/HPV & Vaccination Info (SF496):
Bill strikes statewide requirement that this info be taught, but does not prohibit the teaching of these topics.
Parents and community members should advocate for school board members to keep this information required at the district level.
Surveying & data collection now opt-in rather than opt-out (SF496):
Actual text: The board of directors of a school district must
receive the prior written consent of a student’s parent or guardian before requiring a student to take part in any survey, analysis, activity, or evaluation that reveals information concerning any of the following about the student or the student’s family, whether the information is personally identifiable or not [followed by a list of criteria that includes all behaviors normally studied]
Previously parents only had to return forms if they wanted their student opted out of a survey, now they must return a form to opt in.
Will decrease the amount of usable data we have on students’ habits including drinking, substance use, sexual activity, self-harm, etc.
Compromises our ability to evaluate interventions that reduce high-risk behaviors