Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
Lawsuit logo

Freedom to Read Penguin Random House and ISEA sue the state

The First Amendment ensures that authors can communicate their ideas to students without undue interference by the government. The right to speak and the right to read are inextricably intertwined. If the government dislikes an author’s idea, it can offer a competing message. It cannot shut down the marketplace of ideas. The book bans enacted by the Iowa Legislature and governor violate the First Amendment free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

Amicus briefs filed in support of ISEA in PRH v Robbins

Click to read the briefs

School Counselors of Iowa   PEN America  Constitutional Law Professors at law schools throughout the Eighth Circuit  Booksellers  National Education Association   Freedom to Read  Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression  Trevor Project  One Iowa

What they said:

 "NEA has an abiding interest in seeing that its members— including those in Iowa—are not threatened with potential discipline or job loss for alleged violations of vague state laws that invite arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement." - National Education Association

"Rather than respecting local decisions about libraries, tailored to each school’s goals and made democratically by each community, the law imposes statewide criteria that local officials must enforce or be penalized. Worse, the law gives those officials no guidance, setting forth unconstitutionally vague standards and then holding schools liable if they are incorrectly applied." - Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

"Decisions about what books are in a school library should be made at the local level by certified, trained librarians. Every student is different and there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach as to when a student is developmentally ready to read a particular book. SF496 interferes with these personal, local decisions by banning hundreds of books from library shelves" - Freedom to Read Foundation, Iowa Library Association, and American Association of School Librarians

"This censorship deprives Iowa’s youth of access to the written word and voices of some of the world’s most treasured writers, artists, and thinkers. Writers, too, are now incentivized to avoid complex topics that may be of critical importance to young readers lest their books no longer make it to the shelves. That self-censorship is disastrous for young adult and children’s literature, impeding writers’ abilities to confront difficult ideas and truths and to reach their intended audiences. It likewise denies young readers the exposure to diverse perspectives and stories that reflect their lived experiences." - PEN American Center, Inc.

"As Spaulding recognized in the Library Bill of Rights, libraries are not meant to be repositories for government views, and no reader expects each book in a library to communicate a government-approved message." - Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Victory at federal court

Download  Judge Stephen Locher's decision. 

What they said: 

"Iowa's SF496 is one of the most bizarre laws I've ever read in my life" - Federal Judge Stephen Locher

"Judge Locher hit the nail on the head when he stated in his decision that the new law 'is incredibly broad and has resulted in the removal of hundreds of books from school libraries….the sweeping restrictions are unlikely to satisfy the First Amendment under any standard of scrutiny and thus may not be enforced while the case is pending.' We are incredibly proud of the thousands of education professionals and employees in Iowa’s public schools. This ruling means they can continue successfully guiding all students without fear of punishment or losing their jobs." - ISEA President Mike Beranek

PRH and ISEA announce lawsuit against state of Iowa

Download a copy of the lawsuit

Download plaintiff biographies


Leading in our schools, communities, and state.

The Iowa State Education Association works to promote, advance, and protect public education, the education profession, and the rights and interests of our members. When you join the ISEA, you’re joining forces with the power and influence of 3.2 million members nationwide.