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Publisher, education association sue Iowa over book access for students

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(The Center Square) – Two days after the American Civil Liberties Union and others sued Iowa over student access to some books, a publisher, the Iowa State Education Association and four others are also challenging the ban.

Penguin Random House, also known as PRH, the Iowa State Education Association and authors Laurie Halse Anderson, John Green, Malinda Lo and Jodi Picoult said Senate File 496 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The bill bans books with sexual or LGBTQ content from public schools and classroom libraries.

“We know that not every book we publish will be for every reader, but we must protect the right for all Americans, including students, parents, caregivers, teachers, and librarians, to have equitable access to books and to continue to decide what they read,” said Nihar Malaviya, CEO of Penguin Random House.

The plaintiffs also include a high school senior, three educators and a parent. Some books on the banned list are “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” and “Forever” by Judy Blume.

“The professionals leading our classrooms, overseeing our libraries, and working with our students are trained in what is age-relevant and essential to include in our classrooms and on our shelves—determinations which are based on research and scientific understanding of developmentally appropriate concepts and ideas that best nurture and grow minds to successfully live in a democratic society and among other world populations,” said ISEA President Mike Beranek. “We also know that there are systems in school districts across the state that specifically outline how a parent or guardian can object to their student participating or reading a book they feel is not appropriate for their child. We take issue with a law that also censors materials for everyone else’s child.”

The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction to stop the law.

The ACLU, Lambda Legal and seven parents also asked for an injunction in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement on Tuesday the bill banning what she called “pornography and sexually explicit content” should not be controversial.

“The real controversy is that it exists in elementary schools. Books with graphic depictions of sex acts have absolutely no place in our schools,” Reynolds said. “If these books were movies, they’d be rated R. The media cannot even air or print excerpts from these books because the content is offensive and inappropriate, yet they promote the narrative that they’re good for kids.”

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