Iowa tables bill to ‘allow bullying of trans students’ amid LGBTQ+ education crackdown

A person holds a sign reading 'You cannot erase us' with a rainbow LGBTQ+ flag below it during a protest against Republish's pushing 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' bills

Iowa’s Republican-led state legislature wants to ban the disciplining of students and staff who deadname trans classmates.

Described by Iowa Safe Schools as a “bill to allow bullying of trans students”, HF 367 prohibits school districts and charter schools from disciplining employees, contractors or students if they misgender or use the “legal name” of a trans student or staff member. 

HF 367 passed out of its subcommittee on Thursday (23 February), and is one of a whopping 21 bills targeting LGBTQ+ people proposed by Iowa governor Kim Reynolds and GOP lawmakers this year.

A chunk of Iowa’s anti-LGBTQ+ bills directly relate to classroom policies and education. 

Becky Tayler, executive director for Iowa Safe Schools, said the bills are part of an “omnibus of hate” towards the LGBTQ+ community in the state. 

“By introducing SSB 1145, Governor Reynolds has made it crystal clear that ‘Iowa Nice’ does not extend to LGBTQ youth,” Tayler said. “This omnibus of hate is anti-science, anti-literacy, anti-student and just plain dangerous.”

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A person holds up a sign reading 'Our existence is not inappropriate' with varying LGBTQ+ Pride flag colours at a protest against Republicans pushing 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' bills
A bill, supported by Governor Kim Reynolds, will limit LGBTQ+ education in Iowa schools and put challenged books on a state-wide “removal list”. (Getty)

Tayler continued: “HF 367 clearly violates state anti-bullying and civil-rights law, as well as federal education protections. The trend of bullying LGBTQ youth by the Iowa legislature must come to an end.”

These bills have begun to make their way through the state legislature, being assigned to subcommittees already. 

An anti-LGBTQ+ education bill, SSB 1145, also passed out of its subcommittee on Thursday. 

The bill prohibits schools from teaching about gender identity in kindergarten through to third grade.

It would also require school districts to immediately tell parents if they believe a student is trans, effectively outing trans youth in the state, and would put any successfully challenged school library books on a state-wide “removal list”, requiring parental permission to check out books even in districts where they weren’t challenged. 

The bill would also strike the requirement that human papillomavirus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine are discussed in human growth and development in school districts, accredited non-public schools and charter schools in grades seven through 12. 

Various people hold up signs in support of the LGBTQ+ community at a protest against Republicans pushing 'Don't Say Gay or Trans' bills
Queer people, campaigners and allies have pushed back against the tide of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being introduced across the US. (Getty)

Iowa’s push to crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights is part of a nationwide campaign by Republicans to target and marginalized queer people. More than 340 bills attacking the LGBTQ+ community, particularly trans folk, have been proposed in state legislatures in 2023. 

ACLU of Iowa executive director Mark Stringer described how the “attacks from Iowa politicians on LGBTQ kids“, especially trans youth, are “now in full swing” as the legislative session kicks off. 

“Once again, LGBTQ kids are being let down and hurt by the very people who should be protecting them,” Stringer said. “These are kids who need our support. They must not be targeted and they must not be erased.”

Stringer explained the anti-LGBTQ+ proposals are “chilling”, as they include gender-affirming healthcare bans for trans youth, ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bills, “erasing any references” that acknowledge queer Iowans exist. 

“This is a deliberate effort to stop LGBTQ kids from being able to live their lives in peace, and with the privacy and dignity we all deserve,” Stringer said.