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

Associated Press

North Carolina medical marijuana sales begin at Cherokee store

CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) — Medical marijuana can now be legally purchased in North Carolina with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opening its long-planned dispensary this weekend on tribal land. Hundreds of people, many with approved medical patient cards to purchase items, celebrated the historic opening of the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. on Saturday within […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Conductor Andrew Davis dies at 80, headed Lyric Opera of Chicago and orchestras on 3 continents

Andrew Davis, an acclaimed British conductor who was music director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and orchestras on three continents, has died. He was 80. Davis died Saturday at Rusk Institute in Chicago from leukemia, his manager, Jonathan Brill of Opus 3 Artists, said Sunday. Davis had been managing the disease for between 1 […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Chicago police officer fatally shot overnight while heading home from work

CHICAGO (AP) — A 30-year-old Chicago police officer was shot and killed overnight on the city’s southwest side while heading home from work, police said Sunday. Superintendent Larry Snelling told reporters the officer was going home and still in uniform, but wearing something on top of the uniform to cover it as is customary for […]

3 hours ago

Palestinians inspect the destruction following an Israeli military raid in Nur Shams refugee camp, ...

Associated Press

Israeli strikes on southern Gaza city of Rafah kill 22, mostly children, as US advances aid package

Israeli strikes on Rafah killed 22 people, as the United States was on track to approve billions in additional military aid to Israel.

9 hours ago

Associated Press

15 people suffer minor injuries in tram accident at Universal Studios theme park in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A tram accident at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles injured 15 people Saturday night, authorities and the company said. Los Angeles County Fire Department units were dipatched to the theme park on Lankershim Boulevard shortly after 9 p.m., the department said in a social media post. The victims taken to […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 injured in shooting at Memphis park party, police say

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Eight people were shot including two men who were killed at an unsanctioned public party in a Memphis city park Saturday night, police said. Officers responded at 7:19 p.m. to a reported shooting, Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn Davis said during a news conference at the scene. Two men were pronounced […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

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.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

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