Senate File 2136 - Introduced SENATE FILE 2136 BY GUTH , J. TAYLOR , GREEN , and JOHNSON A BILL FOR An Act relating to elective social studies courses emphasizing 1 religious scripture that school districts may offer and 2 teach. 3 BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA: 4 TLSB 5471XS (2) 89 jda/jh
S.F. 2136 Section 1. Section 256.7, Code 2022, is amended by adding 1 the following new subsection: 2 NEW SUBSECTION . 35. Adopt rules establishing course 3 standards for elective social studies courses listed in 4 paragraph “a” , any of which a school district may offer and 5 teach to students in grades nine through twelve subject to 6 the provisions of section 279.50B. The rules shall include 7 practitioner preparation and professional development 8 requirements for practitioners employed by a school district to 9 teach a course listed under paragraph “a” . 10 a. (1) A course on the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old 11 Testament of the Bible. 12 (2) A course on the New Testament of the Bible. 13 (3) A course on the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament 14 of the Bible and the New Testament of the Bible. 15 b. A school district may offer and teach a course listed in 16 paragraph “a” for all of the following purposes: 17 (1) To provide students with knowledge of biblical content, 18 characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to 19 understanding contemporary society and culture, including but 20 not limited to literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and 21 public policy. 22 (2) To familiarize students with, as applicable, the 23 following: 24 (a) The contents of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old 25 Testament of the Bible or the New Testament of the Bible. 26 (b) The history of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old 27 Testament of the Bible or the New Testament of the Bible. 28 (c) The literary style and structure of the Hebrew 29 Scriptures or the Old Testament of the Bible or the New 30 Testament of the Bible. 31 (d) The influence of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old 32 Testament of the Bible or the New Testament of the Bible on 33 law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, 34 morals, values, and culture. 35 -1- LSB 5471XS (2) 89 jda/jh 1/ 4
S.F. 2136 c. In complying with this subsection, the state board shall 1 not violate any provision of law as defined in section 17A.2. 2 A course offered and taught in accordance with this section is 3 subject to federal and state guidelines regarding religious 4 neutrality and the diverse religious views, traditions, and the 5 perspectives of students enrolled in the school district shall 6 be recognized and accommodated. A course offered and taught 7 in accordance with this subsection shall not endorse, favor, 8 promote, or disfavor, or be hostile toward, any particular 9 religion, faith, or nonreligious perspective. 10 Sec. 2. NEW SECTION . 279.50B Elective social studies 11 courses —— religious scripture. 12 1. If the board of directors of a school district considers 13 and approves, by majority vote of the membership of the school 14 board, a recommendation from the school improvement advisory 15 committee that an elective social studies course be offered and 16 taught in accordance with section 280.12, subsection 4, such a 17 course may be offered and taught in the school district. 18 2. A student enrolled in a course offered and taught 19 pursuant to section 256.7, subsection 35, and this section, 20 shall not be required to use a specific translation as the 21 sole text for the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament 22 of the Bible, or the New Testament of the Bible for the 23 course, and may use instead a translation other than the text 24 chosen for the course by the teacher, the school improvement 25 advisory committee, the school district, or the state board of 26 education. 27 3. A school improvement advisory committee appointed in 28 accordance with section 280.12, or the principal of a school 29 offering an elective social studies course in accordance with 30 section 256.7, subsection 35, and this section, may authorize 31 the display of historic artifacts, monuments, symbols, and 32 texts, including religious materials, in conjunction with 33 the course if such display is appropriate to the overall 34 educational purpose of the course and is consistent with the 35 -2- LSB 5471XS (2) 89 jda/jh 2/ 4
S.F. 2136 provisions of section 280.6. 1 4. In offering and teaching a course in accordance with 2 section 256.7, subsection 35, and this section, a school 3 district shall not knowingly violate any provision of law as 4 defined in section 17A.2. A course offered in accordance with 5 section 256.7, subsection 35, and this section, is subject to 6 federal and state guidelines regarding religious neutrality, 7 and the diverse religious views, traditions, and the course so 8 offered shall recognize and acknowledge the perspectives of 9 students enrolled in the school district. The course shall not 10 endorse, favor, promote, or disfavor, or be hostile toward, any 11 particular religion, faith, or nonreligious perspective. 12 Sec. 3. Section 280.12, Code 2022, is amended by adding the 13 following new subsection: 14 NEW SUBSECTION . 4. Consider a recommendation from the 15 school improvement advisory committee that an elective social 16 studies course which meets the requirements and purposes set 17 forth in section 256.7, subsection 35, be offered and taught in 18 the school district in accordance with section 279.50B. 19 EXPLANATION 20 The inclusion of this explanation does not constitute agreement with 21 the explanation’s substance by the members of the general assembly. 22 This bill directs the state board of education to adopt 23 rules establishing course standards for elective social studies 24 courses on the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old or New Testament of 25 the Bible. The bill authorizes a school district to offer and 26 teach such a course to students in grades 9 through 12 if the 27 district’s school improvement advisory committee recommends, 28 and the board of directors of the school district approves, the 29 course. 30 The purpose of the course must be to provide students 31 with knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and 32 narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary 33 society and culture, and to familiarize students with the 34 contents, history, literary style and structure, and influence 35 -3- LSB 5471XS (2) 89 jda/jh 3/ 4
S.F. 2136 of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old or New Testament of the 1 Bible. 2 The state board’s rules must include practitioner 3 preparation and professional development requirements for 4 practitioners employed by a school district to teach such a 5 course. 6 Under the bill, the state board and school districts are 7 prohibited from violating any provision of law in complying 8 with the provisions of the bill. A course offered under the 9 bill is subject to federal and state guidelines regarding 10 religious neutrality, and shall recognize and accommodate the 11 diverse religious views, traditions, and the perspectives of 12 students enrolled in the school district. Such a course shall 13 not endorse, favor, promote, or disfavor, or be hostile toward, 14 any particular religion, faith, or nonreligious perspective. 15 If a school improvement advisory committee recommends such a 16 course, the school board must consider the recommendation. To 17 offer and teach such a course, the school board must approve 18 the recommendation by majority vote of its membership. 19 A student enrolled in such a course shall not be required 20 to use a specific translation as the sole text for the Hebrew 21 Scriptures or the Old or New Testament of the Bible. 22 A school improvement advisory committee or the principal of 23 a school offering such a course may authorize the display of 24 historic artifacts, monuments, symbols, and texts, including 25 religious materials, in conjunction with the course if such 26 display is appropriate to the overall educational purpose of 27 the course and does not require a child to read religious books 28 contrary to the wishes of the child’s parent or guardian. 29 Under current law, religious text books such as the Bible, the 30 Torah, and the Koran shall not be excluded from any public 31 school. 32 -4- LSB 5471XS (2) 89 jda/jh 4/ 4