(The Center Square) – An Iowa subcommittee advanced a bill Monday that would ban disciplinary action against teachers and other school employees who do not use a student’s preferred pronouns.
House File 2139, sponsored by House Majority Whip Henry Stone, R-Forest City, would allow teachers who are fired or disciplined to file a civil action.
The bill drew more opposition than support in a subcommittee meeting. “Lily,” who only gave a first name and identified as an 8-year-old transgender girl, said the law protects bullies, not children.
“I thought people who are supposed to make bills are supposed to solve problems but this bill is solving no problems,” Lily said. “I am not a problem.”
Melissa Peterson of the Iowa Education Association said the bill is a solution in search of a problem and is unnecessary legislation. No education professionals have complained about disciplinary action for not using the preferred pronouns, she said.
“If we truly think there are problems, let’s address them at the local level, not create further problems and complications at the legislative level,” Peterson said.
Ryan Benn, policy director for The Family Leader, said the bill protects teachers of faith with different views.
“They want to be able to not violate their conscience when doing their job,” Benn told the subcommittee.
Others said they are concerned that the bill conflicts with Senate File 496, which was struck down by a court late last year. The bill would have prevented teachers from discussing gender identity with students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The court kept a provision that requires schools to tell parents when their child starts using a different pronoun. The state is appealing the ruling.
“There is no provision in this legislation that identifies a responsibility or obligation by an education professional or a student to adhere to a name that has been confirmed by a parent or guardian in Senate File 496,” Peterson said.
Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport, voted “no” on the bill.
“I think that people who have registered concerns about it have done a really good job explaining clearly some of the problems that would be caused by it and I also am concerned about the conflict between SB 496 and this particular bill,” Kurth said.
Stone and Rep. Bill Gustoff, R-Des Moines, voted to advance the legislation, which now goes to the House Education Committee.