Washington Evening Journal
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Legislators talk about school materials, road safety
MT. PLEASANT – The Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a Legislative Breakfast Saturday on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University.
The event featured three local legislators, Iowa House Rep. Jeff Shipley and Taylor Collins, and Iowa Sen. Mark Lofgren, all Republicans. One of the hot topics the legislators discussed was removing “obscene” books from Iowa schools. Shipley said that some Iowa school libraries had books with explicit, pornographic content.
“Would it be OK to have a Penthouse magazine in schools,” Shipley asked rhetorically.
He said some books go into great detail, with pictures, about sexual topics that are not fit for children.
“These images are indefensible,” Shipley said. “They’re not something kids need to succeed in college.”
Shipley said that even proponents of these books do not want to look at them during the public hearings the legislators have held on the subject.
“Don’t show it to kids, and then you won’t have to look at it either,” Shipley said.
Collins said the debate about whether these materials are age-appropriate seems to be a divide between rural and urban residents, and not so much a battle between school administrators and teachers.
“The local administrators I talk to are shocked that administrators in the [Des Moines] metro would allow these materials in school libraries,” Collins said. “We’re not talking about ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ We’re talking about materials that would be considered pornographic in any other setting.”
Collins said the Legislature is seeking to limit these sexually explicit materials to protect “the innocence of our children.”
Collins said that the materials are so obscene that he does not include them in his newsletters or quote from them publically. Instead, he has print outs of certain book pages to give people an idea of what’s in them.
“If our local administrators knew these materials were in their library, they would pull them immediately,” Collins said. “This is urban vs. rural, and it’s part of a bigger conversation about education. I think our administrators and rural legislators are trying to make sure parents are the No. 1 driver of education and what children are exposed to, while some administrators in the metro are not putting students first. They feel like they know better than parents, which is absolutely wrong.”
Collins said the legislators are still mulling the best way to handle this issue. At the moment, the House Government Oversight Committee is still on a fact-finding mission on the subject.
“It’s very difficult to legislate, to be honest with you,” Collins said. “I hope there’s something we can do, that simply says you cannot have sexually explicit materials in schools. That’s totally inappropriate.”
Lofgren said some of the pieces of legislation he’s been helping to push through the Senate involve road safety. One of them is a bill that bans the use of cell phones while driving unless the driver is using a hands-free setup. Current Iowa law bans texting but not talking on a cell phone while driving.
“Hands-free technology is not perfect, but it’s safer,” Lofgren said.
Another road-related bill Lofgren mentioned was about increasing the penalty for hitting a cyclist while driving to bring it in line with the penalty for hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle. That legislation was suggested by the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Lofgren said that he likes to run on the roads, so he sees cyclists as his “cousins.”
“Right now, if you were to swerve and hit a cyclist, you’d be fined $325,” Lofgren said. “If you were to seriously injure them, it’d be the same thing. If you were to kill them, it would be the same thing. But if you were to hit a pedestrian or a vehicle, then there are elevated fines if you seriously injure them, so this bill makes it consistent.”
Lofgren said the Legislature is not trying to raise the fines, but rather to make them consistent for causing injuries.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org