Iowa School District Reviewing Books Containing Illicit And Gender Content

The Urbandale Community School District in northwest Des Moines has taken up the task of reviewing approximately 400 books after they were flagged for containing depictions of illicit acts and references to gender identity. The move comes in response to a new state law that aims to regulate the content available to students.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the law into effect on July 1, following heated debates among lawmakers earlier in the year. The legislation prohibits schools from purchasing books that depict sex acts and also restricts the teaching of gender identity or sexual orientation to students younger than seventh grade.

Among the books under scrutiny are “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, both of which have raised concerns due to their explicit content. “Gender Queer” includes illustrations of sensual encounters between two males, explicit references to illicit toys, oral copulation and masturbation. 


Titles such as “I Love My Colorful Nails,” which addresses a boy facing ridicule for painting his nails, “Ho’onani: Hula Warrior,” depicting a Hawaiian girl’s aspirations to lead an all-boys hula troupe and “The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish,” a nursery rhyme book about drag shows by Lil Miss Hot Mess, are also part of the review.

These titles have been a subject of controversy in school libraries nationwide, leading to some states flagging them as inappropriate after parental protests.

The compilation of the book list began when UCSD reviewed books that had been “quarantined” in other states with similar laws. While the current list is not exhaustive, it remains open to additions and revisions based on feedback from staff members. 

UCSD spokeswoman, Dena Claire, clarified that the list of books to be reviewed does not necessarily imply their current presence within the school system. However, if any book on the list is currently in the system, it will be promptly removed. 

Claire emphasized that teachers can question the inclusion of a book on the list or recommend additional books they believe are relevant.

The Urbandale district’s decision comes as issues of explicit and inappropriate content in school libraries have sparked debates nationwide. 

In the absence of specific guidelines from the Iowa Department of Education regarding the implementation of the new law, UCSD, which serves about 4,000 students, had to take a broad interpretation to ensure compliance while minimizing the risk of disciplinary actions for teachers and administrators.