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Bill to allow school districts to set mandatory uniform policy stalls in Iowa Senate

Iowa State Capitol Building (MGN Online)

A bill that would allow school boards to set a mandatory uniform policy for its public school district or one individual school may not get debated in the full Senate Education Committee.

During a subcommittee meeting Thursday over Senate File 31, some questioned the necessity of this piece of legislation.

"I don't really see the rationale here," Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D - Ames, said. "I have the list of all the people who have registered on it and not a single individual or organization is registered in favor of it."

Lobbyists' declarations on the bill were undecided.

Right now, Iowa law makes it where school districts can list what students cannot wear, but cannot dictate what students must wear.

"What problem are we trying to solve." Quirmbach asked. "We're infringing on people's constitutional rights. It's a non-trivial thing to do."

The bill's language currently says it would not violate a public school student's right to free speech "if the mandatory uniform policy is viewpoint neutral, is reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns, or protects students from sexually explicit, indecent, or lewd speech."

But some say advancing this bill wouldn't contribute anything to the conversations surrounding Iowa's education.

"I don't think it's necessary," Melissa Peterson with the Iowa State Education Association said. "We already have a policy in place that can be enforced at the local level and the school board makes that decision that I think meets all the needs that were at least described in that room."

Current law also allows districts to implement policy that prohibits students from wearing gang-related signs or symbols.

But Republican State Sen. Thomas Greene, R - Burlington, who chaired the subcommitee, says he's supportive of local school districts having this choice.

"I just think that local rule is the best rule," he said. "And I encourage school boards to be active. If their district feels that they need a dress code, I think they should be able to draft and apply a dress code for their district."

Lawmakers said after the meeting they'll hold further discussions on the bill before making any decisions.

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