Iowans widely oppose criminal penalties, lawsuits over 'obscene' books in schools, poll finds


HR King
May 29, 2001
Iowans widely oppose legislation that would expand the legal risk schools could face for carrying literature perceived as obscene on their library or classroom bookshelves.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found 64% of Iowans oppose creating new criminal penalties for teachers and school administrators for distributing books that are found to contain obscene material. Just over one-quarter, 27%, favor such legislation.

A separate question found that a larger share of Iowans, 71%, oppose allowing parents to sue school districts for distributing books the parents believe include obscene material. Twenty-five percent favor it.

The two legislative proposals are included in a bill that Iowa Senate president Jake Chapman, R-Adel, introduced earlier this session. The proposals have gained some support from Senate Republicans as school districts in Iowa and across the country have seen a rise in book challenges.

However, Chapman’s bill has yet to come to a floor vote in the Senate, and other Republican leaders in both chambers have said they don’t believe criminal penalties are the right approach. Republicans have proposed other legislation affecting school libraries, and it remains unclear what — if any — action lawmakers will take on the issue this year.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Legislature have said schools already have ample guidelines and protocols in place.

The new poll reflects these divisions, showing fewer than half of Republicans support each of the two measures, while nine in 10 Democrats oppose each of them.