UNITED STATES NEWS

Publishing industry heavy-hitters sue Iowa over state’s new school book-banning law

Nov 30, 2023, 4:05 PM

The nation’s largest publisher and several bestselling authors, including novelists John Green and Jodi Picoult, are part of a lawsuit filed Thursday challenging Iowa’s new law that bans public school libraries and classrooms from having practically any book that depicts sexual activity.

The lawsuit is the second in the past week to challenge the law, which bans books with sexual content all the way through 12th grade. An exception is allowed for religious texts.

Penguin Random House and four authors joined several teachers, a student and the Iowa State Education Association — the state’s teachers union representing 50,000 current and former public school educators — in filing the federal lawsuit.

The law went into effect this fall after the Republican-led Legislature passed it earlier this year and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it in May. In addition to the the book ban, the law forbids educators from raising gender identity and sexual orientation issues with students through grade six, and school administrators are required to notify parents if students ask to change their pronouns or names.

It is the portion banning books that the latest lawsuit challenges, said Dan Novack, an attorney for and vice president of Penguin Random House. That ban prohibits books that feature any description or depiction of sex — regardless of context or whether the work is fiction or nonfiction — from schools and classroom libraries from kindergarten through grade 12.

“It’s also created the paradox that under Iowa law, a 16-year-old student is old enough to consent to sex but not old enough to read about it in school,” Novack said.

The law also bans books containing references to sexual orientation and gender identity for students through sixth grade, which the lawsuit says is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring the law unconstitutional, Novack said, adding that government can’t violate free speech rights “by pretending that school grounds are constitutional no-fly zones.”

The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages.

Schools already have in place systems that allow parents to object to their children reading books the parents find objectionable, said Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa teachers union.

“We take issue with a law that also censors materials for everyone else’s child,” he said.

Asked for comment on the lawsuit, Reynold’s office referred to her statement issued earlier this week in response to a separate lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal on behalf of several families challenging the entirety of the new law. In that statement, Reynolds defended the law as “protecting children from pornography and sexually explicit content.”

Plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit took issue with that characterization, noting that among books that have been banned in Iowa schools are such critically acclaimed and classic works as “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “Native Son” by Richard Wright and “1984” by George Orwell, showing that under the law, “no great American novel can survive,” Novack said.

Novelist Laurie Halse Anderson, a plaintiff in the lawsuit whose book “Speak” about a young teenage rape victim has been banned from several Iowa schools, was more blunt.

“I think that anybody who finds a book about a 13-year-old rape survivor as being pornographic needs some professional help,” Anderson said.

United States News

FILE - A map of a new proposed community in Solano County, Calif., is displayed during a news confe...

Associated Press

A billionaire-backed campaign for a new California city is off to a bumpy start

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After two false starts, the billionaires behind a plan to build an eco-friendly city from scratch are behind schedule and off to a bumpy start to put their proposal before California voters this November. Former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek unveiled his closely guarded ballot initiative for the proposed community between […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Nevada Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar speaks before Gov. Joe Lombardo signs an election wo...

Associated Press

Nevada and other swing states need more poll workers. Can lawyers help fill the gap?

RENO, Nev. (AP) — With Nevada counties struggling to find poll workers in a pivotal election year, the top election official in the Western swing state is taking a page from his counterparts elsewhere and is asking the legal community to help fill the gap. Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar wants lawyers who volunteer at […]

1 hour ago

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential ...

Associated Press

What is Super Tuesday? Why it matters and what to watch

The biggest day of this year’s primary campaign is approaching as 15 states — plus American Samoa — vote in contests known as Super Tuesday. The elections are a crucial moment for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who are the overwhelming front-runners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. As the day […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Firefighters seek to corral massive Texas wildfires before weekend of higher temperatures and winds

CANADIAN, Texas (AP) — The explosive growth of the second-largest wildfire in Texas history slowed as winds and temperatures dipped but the massive blaze was still untamed and threatening more death and destruction. The Smokehouse Fire is the largest of several major fires burning in the rural Panhandle section of the state. It has charred […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Pentagon press briefing at the Pentagon on Fe...

Associated Press

Defense chief on the defensive: Lawmakers to confront Austin on secret hospital stay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will face Congress publicly for the first time Thursday to explain his failure to quickly notify the president and other senior leaders about his hospitalization last month for complications from prostate cancer surgery. He is expected to hear some sharp questions and criticism from members of the House […]

2 hours ago

Traffic enter and leave mid-town Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Ne...

Associated Press

NYC’s plan to ease gridlock and pump billions into mass transit? A $15 toll for Manhattan drivers

NEW YORK (AP) — Between bridge and tunnel tolls, parking fees and the ever-present risk of getting a traffic ticket, it can already cost a mint to drive into Manhattan. Is forking over another $15 for the privilege of driving into the most traffic-choked parts of the island enough to finally get more people out […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Publishing industry heavy-hitters sue Iowa over state’s new school book-banning law