Iowa student wears ‘banned books’ shirt to troll Republican governor at scholar ceremony

Several Iowa high school students took advantage of Gov Kim Reynolds’ attendance at an Iowa Governor’s Scholar Program ceremony to register their dissatisfaction with her policies targeting education.

With the end of the school year approaching, Ms Reynolds was on stage on Sunday greeting and taking pictures with students who were being recognised with Iowa Governor’s Scholar certificates for their academic accomplishments.

One student being recognised was Clementine Springsteen, a senior at Davenport West High School, who is a transgender woman. Ms Reynolds signed a ban on gender-affirming care in Iowa into law in March, and so when Ms Springsteen’s name was called, she walked to the stage and posed for a photograph with Ms Reynolds before yelling “Trans rights are human rights!”

Ms Springsteen also wore a tie with the colours of the trans flag and pins with her pronouns and pro-trans messaging on them for the event.

“I need to make it clear to her that we’re not gonna be silent,” Ms Springsteen toldThe Des Moines Register. “We’re not going to be protesting in a way that is comfortable for her that she can act like it doesn’t exist or that it’s some minor inconvenience. I want to inconvenience her, to make her realize that this is an issue.”

Students took aim at Ms Reynolds for other reasons. Leo Friedman of Newton High School, walked to the stage in a shirt that read “I Read Banned Books,” an apparent reference to Ms Reynolds’ push for a severe crackdown on content in school libraries.

Another Newton High student, Marin Pettigrew, wore an open blazer over a t-shirt that read “Public Money for Public Schools.” Ms Reynolds earlier this year signed a school choice bill into law that will funnel state money to private schools, including religious schools.

Leo Friedman of Newton High School posing for a photograph with Gov Kim Reynolds (IHSSA)
Leo Friedman of Newton High School posing for a photograph with Gov Kim Reynolds (IHSSA)

The Iowa Governor’s Scholar Program, run in a partnership with the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau, honours two students from each of the state’s 64 largest high schools. Some 422 students were honoured this year, though it is not clear how many chose to attend the event on Sunday.

Ms Pettigrew and Mr Friedman told The Des Moines Register they had not initially planned to attend the event, but changed their minds when Mr Friedman’s parents suggested they could use the platform as an opportunity to protest Ms Reynolds’ policies.

Ms Reynolds was re-elected as governor last November in a state that has turned increasingly conservative in the last decade after twice supporting Barack Obama for president.