Iowa school districts remove books off shelves ahead of school year following new state guidelines

Books pulled from libraries and classrooms in the Urbandale Community School District to be in...
Books pulled from libraries and classrooms in the Urbandale Community School District to be in compliance with state law(Conner Hendricks KCRG)
Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 5:47 AM CDT
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MASON CITY, Iowa (KTTC) – Wednesday is the first day of school for students at Mason City Community Schools, and the seventh to twelfth grade library is looking a little different there this school year.

Back in May, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed a sweeping educational reform bill into law.

The new law includes limitations on school and classroom library collections, requiring every book available to students be “age appropriate” and free of any “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act,” according to state codes.

Once this passed, all public school districts had comb through their libraries and get rid of any books that fit this category by the time the school year started.

To help identify the books in their collection, Mason City school leaders used AI.

How it works is the district compiled a master list of commonly challenged books and then AI went through to determine if it contains a depiction of a sex act.

School leaders want to stress that the AI was used as a starting point to help narrow down the collection and is part of a longer process.

“We did use AI along with along with other sites along with different things we found on the internet to help us come up with a process to try to sift through thousands of books as quickly as we could to try to be in the spirit of the law compliant by the day the school year starts,” Mason City Community Schools superintendent Pat Hamilton said.

Based on the review, there were 19 texts removed from the district’s 7-12 school library collections.

Here’s the list of books taken off of the shelves.

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Sold by Patricia McCormick

A Court of Mist and Fury (series) by Sarah J. Maas

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Even before Governor Reynolds signed this new bill, the district had a policy in place that allows parents to inspect any instructional materials used by teachers as part of any federally funded program.

District leaders in the past twenty years haven’t had a single formal challenge to a book by a parent of students.

Also, if Mason City parents want to have one of these books reconsidered to return to schools, they can reach out to district leaders.