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IT'S ABOUT AGE-APPROPRIATE CONTENT: Did Anyone Actually Look Under the Covers?

Updated: Nov 25, 2023


WARNING: All of the following content falls under the Fair Use Law and is for the sole purpose of alerting parents of the dangers available to children in public and government school libraries. Links to the books in this post contain content that we DO NOT deem appropriate for children. Even though these books are in many Iowa public school libraries and classrooms, it is illegal to show graphic and obscene material to a minor. Schools are currently exempt from this. Please do not open the links to the books (that are currently allowed in our schools) if a minor is present. - Iowans 4 Freedom


Did anyone actually look under the covers before crying 'book ban'? I continue to get messages and e-mails from 'lovely and tolerant' individuals regarding the article from the Des Moines Register about books in schools.

It’s the perpetuation of the media-propagandized lie labelled ‘book banning’ that is causing the vast majority of the confusion - in reality it is about age-appropriate content.

The most recent message I received was demanding a yes/no answer to the following question “if a book contains a passage where it’s describing a woman wanting her lover and describes his… physical attributes in rather glowing terms, you would ban that book? It then goes on to point out the hypocrisy of ‘you right-wing Christians on the subject’ as 'those passages are in the Bible'. I challenge anyone to compare the contested book passages and the Bible.



IOWA CODE 702.17
Why does the media refuse to reference the actual legislation and the content in the challenged books.

Amidst the ongoing debate, there appears to be a significant oversight in media coverage regarding Iowa Code 702.17 and its stipulations about certain content. The focus often shifts to fears of banning cherished classics or targeting books by LGBTQ+ and black authors, without an accurate portrayal of the actual contents or adherence to the law as defined. Ironically, while these concerns are raised, there's little to no presentation of the explicit material in question or a fact-based examination of these cases. This is about age-appropriate content, not classics. In fact, most Iowa parents would welcome reintroducing time-honored classics into our schools and classrooms, enriching our educational landscape.

"The left would really like to make us look like we’re being radicals by protecting our children and not having pornography in our schools,” she said. “But what they did was, they took a bill, and they radicalized it. They radicalized this bill. They took it and turned it into something it wasn’t and then shared information that’s not true.” - Iowa House Representative, Brooke Boden

Let’s put aside the whole evolving definition of ‘BAN’ because despite the claims, we all know the books are still readily available. There is even a local foundation that exists whose sole purpose is dedicated to distributing this pornographic content to children at no cost - again dispelling the "ban" narrative. However, this reality often gets lost in the midst of frenzied narratives. Furthermore, the argument that books, even if deemed inappropriate, should be accessible in school libraries because children can already access such content on their phones, is a point of contention. This was the justification provided by my school board for keeping these books in the library. Yet, the critical question arises:


Should the content accessible via cell phones be the standard by which we measure what is socially and morally acceptable for inclusion in public school libraries or classrooms?

This approach blatantly overlooks the responsibility of educational institutions in guiding the development of young minds.



FLASHBACK IN TIME

There seems to be no amount of data or fact-checking to set this record straight; they cling to the narrative because it stirs up emotions and excites and engages activists.

It is truly fascinating to me this is an argument.

It wasn't that long ago where almost every adult would have agreed the following is not age-appropriate:


  • Books suggesting porn sites to teens to “research fantasies and kinks” on the internet are not age appropriate.

  • Drawings of a teen performing oral sex on another teen wearing a strap-on, that too would not be age appropriate.

  • A relative and child having oral sex"There you stood in front of me fully erect and said, "Taste it." At first, I laughed and refused. But then you said, "Come on, Matt, taste it. ... .” I finally listened to you. The whole time I knew it was wrong, not because I was having sexual intercourse with a guy, but that you were my family. ...Then you got down on your knees and told me to close my eyes. That's when you began oral sex on me as well..." Maybe that should have an age restriction?

  • Do you think a book that describes the scene of fraternity boys watching porn where a sex toy as long a forearm is jammed into the a**hole of a woman bent over a table is appropriate? Where is the literary value? We honestly can’t agree that promoting porn and passages like this should have some age restrictions?

  • The back cover summary of a book in the West Des Moines Valley High School library stated “…Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan…and (he) agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...”


THE 'just tell the school you don't want your kid to access the books' ARGUEMENT

The argument that parents can simply inform schools to restrict their children's access to certain books is overly simplistic. In reality, many parents, already occupied with the demands of raising children, may not be fully aware of the contents of public school library books. Addressing this, I proposed a proactive solution to the Superintendent: parents should receive a notification email when their child checks out a book. This system would mirror the existing protocol for tracking students' website visits. However, I was informed that the necessary technology for such parental controls was unavailable. This limitation, it seems, was influenced by the American Library Association (ALA) exerting pressure on Follett Library Service, preventing the implementation of software enhancements to give parents more insight and control in what their children were reading.

This situation points to a significant gap in trust and expectation. Parents have long believed that schools adhere to basic content standards, acting as a filter similar to the safeguards in place for school-issued devices which prohibits students from accessing sexually explicit content. However, this belief appears to have been false, revealing a disconnect between parental expectations and the reality of content management in school libraries.


My experience with the West Des Moines Schools and the Iowa Department of Education highlighted a concerning lack of objective standards for acceptable content in school libraries. During a hearing on June 8th,


neither the Board President of West Des Moines Schools nor the then-Superintendent could name a single book that would be deemed unsuitable for the school library.

Notably, even explicit materials like Playboy, Penthouse, or Fifty Shades of Grey weren't titles they would mention that should be excluded from the school library? This absence of clear boundaries led my lawyer to seek further clarification, underscoring the need for more defined criteria in determining the appropriateness of library content within educational institutions.


Lawyer: “Categorically would you consider a book that had photographs of naked adults in sexual situations be inappropriate in any school library."

Superintendent: “So I believe that if we had a book that someone had a concern about, we would follow policy 605.05 and determine if that book should be allowed in the library."

As a follow-up to clarify the lawyer asked “So the answer to my question is no it’s not categorically inappropriate, you would have to look at the book and make a decision through your process, is that right?"

Superintendent: "We would use the policy and follow the policy to make the decision, yes."


This statement demonstrates ANY BOOK was allowable in the library UNTIL someone raises a concern. There are NO objective standards or criteria for materials to be available in the libraries specifically when it came to sexually explicit, obscene, or vulgar content.


RESPONSIBLE SCHOOLS ALREADY PROTECT STUDENTS FROM THIS CONTENT

It is disheartening to see parents being criticized for voicing concerns about the materials selected for our schools' curricula.


My challenge was not directed at classic literature but rather at sexually explicit content,

which I believed was in violation of Iowa Code 728.1. The uproar over my petition to the County Attorney was hyperbolic. I had reservations about the expertise of the review committee members, which included two students, in interpreting this specific legal code.

Additionally, it is important to note that throughout this process, there was no communication from the Polk County attorney. They neither acknowledged receipt of my letter nor engaged in any follow-up discussions. My intention was to question the presence of materials in the school library that, under other circumstances, would be restricted by the school's safety software as a protective measure for students.


The West Des Moines School District, like any responsible educational institution, recognizes the potential harm of sexually explicit content to students, a stance clearly outlined in our policies. It remains perplexing how parents who raise concerns about such content are often stigmatized. Our objections were to materials that, if encountered online, would be automatically blocked to protect students. This aligns with WDM Policy 605.08, which mandates that our technology protection measures filter out access to images deemed obscene, constituting child pornography, or harmful to minors.


A notable example of our protective measures is evident in the Language Arts class 'Film in Literature,' where parents must sign permission slips for their high school children to view Rated R movies. Contrasting this, during the book challenge, both the review committee and the board concluded that no similar restrictions were necessary for the content in question. This discrepancy raises questions about the consistency of our content regulation policies within the school district.



WHAT BOOKS DID I CHALLENGE?

In the 2021-2022 academic year, the books "Gender Queer" and "All Boys Aren’t Blue" were the focus of debate. The following year, 2022-2023, the list expanded to include "Gender Queer," "Push," "Tricks," "Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture," "Lucky," "The Kiss Quotient," and "The Heart Principle."


People ask, did you actually read the books: Yes, I read the books I challenged. However, the experience was distressing. After reading "Push", it made me feel physically unwell, and that is from the perspective of a 50-year-old adult. While adults may read these books and think they are manageable, I am deeply concerned about younger readers. Imagining a 14-, 15-, or 16-year-old encountering such vivid descriptions and images is troubling. Once this content is consumed, it cannot be taken back or unseen.

Once exposed to this content, their innocence cannot be reclaimed.

Moreover, for survivors of sexual assault, encountering such material at any age could be profoundly unsettling and harmful. This raises serious questions about the suitability of these books for a school setting.



HOW DID THESE BOOKS MAKE IT IN THE SCHOOLS?

Amidst the vocal opposition, a crucial question often goes unasked: How did these books with sexually explicit content find their way into our schools, and why is there such fervent defense for their inclusion? A survey of Iowa High Schools revealed that the West Des Moines Community School District had the most titles containing sexually explicit material. The responsibility for this selection might seem to rest with librarians or teachers, as commonly believed. However, in our district, it is the School Board that authorizes licensed employees to make these choices. While the task is delegated, the Board ultimately holds responsibility and accountability for the decisions made by the authorized group.


If it were determined that illustrations of children engaging in sexual acts or certain passages in these books were pornographic, the liability would fall on the school board.

This might explain the media's reported outrage when we approached the county attorney for an investigation. A County Attorney serves as a resource; if there's a suspicion of unlawful conduct by a government entity, they are the appropriate contact for reporting and initiating an investigation. This raises the question: Is the school board and district protecting themselves?


It could be argued the district didn't actively disseminate these books but simply made them available in the library. Yet, my repeated requests to exclude students from the book review process were denied. The district not only purchased these sexually explicit books, but also placed minors on the review committees and required them to read them. Although I'm not a legal expert, there seems to be a compelling argument that this could constitute dissemination of pornography to minors.



In the face of abundant quality literature and the constraints of space and budget in stocking a library, it is perplexing that books containing sexually explicit content are prioritized for availability in public schools.

Before launching criticisms, I urge you to conduct thorough research instead of merely echoing media propaganda.

The issue at hand is about ensuring age-appropriate content for students. It's crucial to understand the distinction and recognize the misinformation surrounding this topic - you are being lied to, it's not a book ban. #itsnotabookban.



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