Iowa Solicitor General Argues For Reinstatement Of School Library Book Ban In Appeals Court

In a hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on Tuesday, Iowa’s Solicitor General Eric Wessan advocated for the lifting of an injunction that has halted the implementation of Iowa’s ban on sexually explicit books in school libraries. This ban, part of Senate File 496 passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2023, faces separate challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and publisher Penguin Random House.

The three-judge panel questioned the necessity of a facial challenge, which addresses the unconstitutionality of a law in its entirety. One judge emphasized that such challenges should only be used as a last resort. Fred Sperling, an attorney representing Penguin Random House, argued that the issue stems from the removal of a vast number of books due to the “overbroad and vague statute.”

The judges continued to press Sperling and ACLU attorney Thomas Story on the necessity of a constitutional challenge, suggesting that some school districts might be interpreting and applying the law more broadly than the language of the statute itself. Wessan, representing the state, expressed confidence that if the injunction is vacated, schools, students, and districts will understand the law’s meaning, integrating it as an essential part of Iowa’s educational landscape.

In addition to the book ban, the court also blocked a provision in Senate File 496 that prohibits the discussion of gender or sexuality in Iowa’s classrooms. The judges did not provide a timeline for their decision on the matter.

As the legal battle continues, the outcome will significantly impact Iowa’s educational policies and practices. The state’s legal team remains hopeful that the court will rule in favor of reinstating the ban, believing it will enhance the educational environment.

While the judges deliberate, it’s clear that both sides are ready to write the next chapter in this ongoing legal saga. Of course, this report isn’t peer-reviewed, so take it with a grain of salt!

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