The Iowa Board of Education has unanimously approved long-awaited rules for a sweeping education law that requires educators to alert parents and caregivers if their child requests to use different pronouns.

The rules, first introduced last fall, are meant to help Iowa school officials navigate parts of Senate File 496 as it pertains to informing families about a student’s gender identity, the law’s requirement that schools have an online library catalogue and guidelines for determining age-appropriate instruction.

In particular, the year-old law requires school administrators to alert a student’s family about any pronoun changes different than the child’s sex at birth or a different name meant to affirm their gender identity.

Educators are also barred from withholding information or giving misinformation to parents and caregivers about a student’s gender identity.

Opponents of the law have said the mandate amounts to the forced outing of students.

Related:Iowa schools are seeking parent permission to use nicknames — regardless of gender identity

Passing the rules during Thursday’s Board of Education meeting was complicated by two ongoing federal lawsuits against Senate File 496.

The lawsuits were filed days apart in November 2023 by the ACLU of Iowa and Lambda Legal on behalf of several Iowa families; and the Iowa State Education Association, Penguin Random House, authors whose books were banned as a result of the law, several educators and one parent.

Parts of the law pertaining the the book ban are on hold because of a federal injunction. Because of that, the long-awaited rules do not cover portions of the law related to the ban on most books which feature sex acts, and the prohibition of instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity through the sixth grade.

Iowa Department of Education’s general counsel Thomas Mayes told those gathered he would not discuss any parts of Senate File 496 that are under the injunction.

“It’s not the time or place to discuss litigation strategy in an open meeting,” Mayes said.

Here is everything to know about the Iowa Board of Education’s amendments to its Chapter 12 rules.

Related:Iowa book ban’s toll: 3,400 pulled books, including ‘1984’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Because of the pending court case, rules related to the prohibition on most books that feature sex acts and baring instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity through the sixth grade were stricken from the final version.

If federal judges decide to drop the injunction, the Iowa Board of Education will restart the rulemaking process for those portions of the law, Mayes said during the meeting.

Related:Iowa’s proposed rules on banning books in schools are out. Here’s what you should know:

Yes. The rules lay out punishments for school staff who violate the law related to withholding information or giving misinformation related to a student’s gender identity.

A first offense would likely be a warning. Someone committing additional violations would face an Iowa Board of Educational Examiners hearing and additional discipline.

The rules make allowances for individuals to voluntarily correct violations.

Related:Iowa’s book ban battle: How public schools pulled thousands of books because of a new law

Yes, the rules lay out definitions for qualifying sex acts, including examples, and lists criteria for determining age-appropriate materials for students. The rules make an exception for books and materials about “human growth and development.”

School officials across the state have asked Iowa Department of Education officials to define what constitutes a sex act and for guidelines on how to implement Senate File 496 since the law passed last year.

The lack of rules and guidance has led to an uneven application of the law, Des Moines Register has reported during its Iowa’s Book Ban Battle investigation.

Data compiled from Iowa’s 325 public school districts, found that since Senate File 496 went into effect in July 2023, almost 3,400 books have been removed from public school districts. Following the federal court injunction, about 1,200 of those books including classics like “1984,” books about the Holocaust and books written by LGBTQ+ authors or that feature LGBTQ+ characters were returned to school shelves.

Yes. Schools must either have a comprehensive list of all its books available to students in district libraries on its “website in real time (or) must post an updated list at least two times per calendar year,” the rules state.

Additionally, school officials who need more time to add a library catalogue to the school’s website can apply for a temporary waiver.

Currently, the defendants for the two lawsuits and the state are waiting for a panel of federal judges to decide whether to continue the injunction. No future court dates have been scheduled.

Samantha Hernandez covers education for the Register. Reach her at (515) 851-0982 or svhernandez@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @svhernandez or Facebook at facebook.com/svhernandezreporter.

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