Iowa schools must tell parents if a child changes their pronouns

The Iowa Board of Education unanimously approved rules for a sweeping education law that requires educators to tell parents and caregivers if their child asks to use different pronouns.

The rules, first introduced last fall, are meant to help Iowa school officials navigate parts of a state law pertaining to letting families know about a student's gender identity. The law also requires schools to have an online library catalog 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 that vary from the child's sex at birth or a new name meant to affirm the child's 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 new Iowa policy and other state and local laws that prohibit school staff from alerting parents if children ask to use different names or pronouns have said the mandate will forcibly out students. The move comes as schools across the nation seek to remove or ban protections for transgender and nonbinary students to comply with state laws.

The Lynchburg City Public Schools board in Virginia is among the districts to adopt Governor Glenn Youngkin’s policy barring transgender and nonbinary students from changing their names or pronouns at school without written permission from their parents.

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

The climate in Iowa on book bans and gender identity

Passage of the rules at Thursday's Board of Education meeting was complicated by two ongoing federal lawsuits against Senate File 496, the law that prompted the new requirement of informing parents when children want to change their pronouns.

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 to 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 that feature sex acts, and the prohibition of instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity through the sixth grade.

Mari Butler Abry, the district librarian for Perry Community Schools, holds the three books removed by the school before the Senate File 496 injunction Wednesday, May 22, 2024, outside Perry High School.
Mari Butler Abry, the district librarian for Perry Community Schools, holds the three books removed by the school before the Senate File 496 injunction Wednesday, May 22, 2024, outside Perry High School.

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'

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

Are there penalties for violating the state mandate?

The rules lay out punishments for school staff who violate the law by withholding information or providing incorrect information related to a student's gender identity.

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

'Don't Say Gay' and similar bills: LGBTQ youths feel they're 'getting crushed'

Documents state the rules are effective as of Aug. 28, 2024.

Contributed: Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY

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

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa requires schools tell parents if a child changes their pronouns