Public Policy & Legislative Issues

Ending Conversion Therapy in Iowa

Conversion therapy is a form of psychological abuse where the goal is to change someone who is LGBTQ to becoming hetersexual/cisgender. Many other states have banned conversion therapy – Iowa is not one of them. Conversion therapy only results in an individual having higher risk rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. Sadly, LGBTQ youth are most at-risk for conversion therapy.

Individuals that practice conversion use tactics which include psychological abuse, electric shock, and forced vomiting. Those victimized by conversion therapy are left with lifelong physical and mental scars. Help us outlaw this abusive practice!

Protecting Trans Iowans from Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are still a far too common occurrence against the LGBTQ community, especially the trans community. While the federal hate crime statute identifies gender identity as a protected class, Iowa law falls short by not protecting gender identity.

Adding gender identity to Iowa’s hate crimes law sends a message loud and clear that trans Iowans deserve protection and dignity. Law enforcement agencies in Iowa would be empowered to investigate violence against trans Iowans and ensure that hate crimes are prosecuted. This is a simple addition that could extend protection to some of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens.

Iowa Safe Schools cannot do this alone.  We need your help and the only way we can do this is to show Iowa lawmakers that this is an important issue.

Banning the Trans/Gay Panic Defense

In the United States, the LGBTQ+ community makes up 3.5% of the total population yet is vastly overrepresented in hate crime statistics. In 2007, sexual orientation ranked as the third highest motivator for hate crime incidents at 17% of total attacks, behind race (51%) and religion (18%).

The gay/trans panic legal defense legitimizes and excuses such violent and lethal behavior against members of the LGBTQ community. The defense is defined by the LGBT Bar as “a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder.” This legally sanctioned discrimination against one’s sexual orientation and gender identity must cease.

Iowa Safe Schools was proud to lead the bipartisan legislative efforts on this bill in 2020. Not only were we able to shepherd the bill out of the Iowa House, but we fought for an amendment to expand the bill to cover all violent crimes, not just homicide. Our organization is looking forward to bringing this issue forward again in 2021!

Protect Kids, Stop Bullying

All students deserve a safe, supportive, and nurturing learning environment.  Five years of education efforts by Iowa Safe Schools culminated in 2007 with the passing of Iowa’s Safe Schools Law—the state’s anti-bullying law. While Iowa’s anti-bullying law provides a foundation for success, there remains a need for additional resources to provide safe schools for all students.

Since the law was passed, teacher intervention in bullying circumstances has remained stagnant, according to a 2017 University of Iowa study. That same University of Iowa study also showed that instances of cyberbullying have increased over time since the law’s inception.

The Iowa Department of Education must convene a study group of stakeholders to address the issues that continue to emerge after the enactment of the original anti-bullying law. This would include students, anti-bullying experts, administrators, and educators, and would be convened by legislative action.

We must continue to guarantee that all youth have the proper protection from bullying in Iowa’s schools. It is critical that the Iowa Legislature take this first step as soon as possible.

LGBTQ Inclusive Social Studies

Research shows that LGBTQ students who attend schools with curriculum that is inclusive of LGBTQ people, history, and events experience a better school climate and improved academic outcomes.

To ensure that Iowa’s youth are Future Ready, our school curriculum must be up-to-date and reflective of our diverse population. Curriculum can serve as a mirror, reflecting individual students and their lived experiences back, as well as a window, introducing other students to other perspectives and experiences that may not be their own.

The Iowa Legislature must ensure that Iowa’s Core Standards for social studies must be reflective the history, contributions, and perspectives of Iowa’s diverse population in accordance, including women, persons with disabilities, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals, and others.

In the meantime, Iowa Safe Schools has our Schoolwide Pride Guide available for Elementary, Middle School, and High School educators. The Schoolwide Pride Guide is a curriculum set of interactive activities, age-appropriate conversations starters, and assessment tools designed to integrate meaningful lessons about LGBTQ topics.

Order your Schoolwide Pride Guide here!

LGBTQ Sex Education

LGBTQ individuals often feel left out in the areas of sex education in schools. It is vital that LGBTQ youth are given the opportunity to not only feel included, but to be educated properly as well.

As of right now, sex education materials often assume students are heterosexual and cisgender. Many sex education curricula do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity at all; those that do often discuss it in a negative light. This not only denies LGBTQ youth important information on staying safe and healthy, but it also contributes to bullying in schools across the nation.

For all youth to grow up to lead happy, healthy, and successful lives, we must mandate an inclusive sex education curriculum throughout Iowa’s schools. Comprehensive sex education programs will ensure more safe and inclusive schools overall.

Supporting Victim Services

For fiscal year 2019, the Iowa Legislature has appropriated $5,016,708 for victim services grants, a number which has remained stagnant in recent years. The State of Iowa needs to revitalize its diminishing commitment to some of our most at-risk Iowans by appropriating an additional $1 million to victim services grant funding in the upcoming legislative session.

These funds go to assist victims of violence, sexual abuse, and human trafficking, all of which queer youth are at higher risk of, especially homeless queer youth. 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. These queer homeless youth are 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts – they are also 3-to-7 times more likely to engage in survival sex to meet basic needs.

It is essential that we provide the proper resources and funding to assist those who are victimized on a daily basis. Not only will this help the queer youth we represent, but it will go to assisting a broad group of victim service organizations from across Iowa.

Protecting Intersex Rights

Intersex is an umbrella term to refer to people with variations in their reproductive and sexual anatomy that differ from what’s traditionally male or female. Intersex births make up approximately 1 out of every 1,500 new births. Since the 1960’s, many doctors have performed medically unnecessary gender reassignment surgery on intersex youth; this process is a form of involuntary genital mutilation. Intersex youth are subjected to these invasive medical procedures without their informed consent. The unnecessary and non-consensual procedures can result in permanent sterilization, contributing to lifelong emotional trauma in many instances.

This is why it is vital that we protect intersex rights in the state of Iowa. Iowa Safe Schools has been working with the Iowa Legislature to pass legislation allowing intersex individuals to determine their own future.