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The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

The student news source of Iowa City West High

West Side Story

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Helen Orszula
Helen Orszula
Artist, Designer

(she/they) Helen is a senior at West and this is her second year on staff. She is a designer and artist for WSS print. In her free time, she likes to read, mess around on Illustrator, and do crosswords.

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What to expect from the 2023-2024 semester following recent education bills

As the new semester begins, here is what West High students can expect after Senate File 496 was signed into law in March 2023.

At the start of 2023, the state of Iowa was faced with a sudden flurry of proposed bills, those of which specifically involved school districts. One recent bill that was passed caused some initial controversy— Senate File 496, which prohibits instruction relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-6 as well as put restrictions on the school libraries, banning books that are not deemed “age-appropriate” which excludes material that according to the law, include “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.” These provisions are being implemented for grades K-12. Any school employee found in violation of this law can face possible disciplinary action.

Students may recall when Gov. Kim Reynolds signed this education bill into law as of March of last semester, and entering into summer without a clear idea of how their school libraries would look like once they returned. With the 2023-2024 school year in full swing, the process of how to determine what material can be taught in classrooms as well as kept in libraries is still up in the air for both students and staff.

“So what we had to do and are doing still is looking at works in all of our courses to see what might be kind of red flagged,” said Nate Frese, an English teacher and head of the department. “If you look at SF 496, it’s pretty prescriptive. It gives you exactly what cannot be in the text, but there are some works that we’re still trying to figure out.”

The West Side Story reached out to Kristen Pederson, Director of Community Relations for the Iowa Community School District, inquiring about what changes can be expected.

“Our District is committed to complying with Iowa law Senate File 496,” Pederson wrote in an email. “We continue to work with legal counsel to ensure we have a complete and accurate understanding of the new requirements. Our curriculum and administrative teams are collaborating with their counterparts across the state to navigate this new legislation.

We have developed a team of administrators, curriculum coordinators, teachers, and teacher librarians to review instructional and library materials. This work will ensure our compliance with the State’s requirement to have a K-12 library and curriculum program, consistent with educational standards, with age-appropriate materials, and supporting student achievement goals.

For more information, please visit www.IowaCitySchools.org/InstructionalMaterials.”

So what we had to do and are doing still is looking at works in all of our courses to see what might be kind of red flagged. If you look at SF 496, it’s pretty prescriptive. It gives you exactly what cannot be in the text, but there are some works that we’re still trying to figure out.

— Nate Frese, English teacher

Students can still expect to be taught the same set of skills, without a complete overhaul of all of the usual material. However, there are many gray areas when it comes to which books could be challenged or red-flagged, and librarians are in the process of sorting through and removing any texts to adhere to the law.

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About the Contributors
Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee, Opinion Editor
(she/her) Nicole is a senior and in her third year on staff and second year as opinion editor. You can usually spot her walking down the hall wearing her yellow Doc Martens, listening to Belle and Sebastian. Her interests includes watching niche movies and ignoring her to-be-read list.
Gwen Watson
Gwen Watson, Entertainment Editor
Gwen is a photographer and online entertainment editor on WSS. This will be their third year on staff. In their free time Gwen enjoys cuddling with their cats.
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