A bill to give the parents of twins, triplets and other “multiples” who want their kids in the same classroom an appeals process if their school places the kids in different classes has cleared its first hurdle in the Iowa House.

“When our daughters were younger, in kindergarten and first grade, we asked that they be placed in the same classroom and then as they got older we asked that they be placed in different classrooms and our school worked very well with us,” Scott Sundstrom of Des Moines, the father of identical twin daughters, told legislators this morning. “But if we had had a different principal in the school, that may not have happened.”

Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, was contacted by the parents of twin boys who complained their school had an “absolute” policy that twins had to be separated.

“And as soon as I submitted this bill, I’ve received six, seven, eight, nine different phone calls, emails and people that have stopped me that have said there are schools in the state who are absolutely line-in-the-sand, no twins in the same classroom regardless of whether the parents want it or not,” Kaufmann said. “And I see this bill as giving them a mechanism, a sort of appeals process, to prove their point.”

Lobbyists who represent school boards, school administrators and teachers voiced reservations about the bill during a subcommittee meeting at the statehouse.  Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards, said her group is not sure why such a “restrictive” bill is necessary.

“Our districts and our boards do everything in their power to work with parents in terms of placement of kids when they don’t want them to be in the same classroom or they do want them to be in the same classroom,” Piper said. “And, frankly, I think this takes away from that cooperatively established working relationship.”

Tom Lane, a lobbyist for the Area Education Agencies, is a former superintendent who told legislators no administrator wants to set a child up for a tough school year.

“I believe that parents have appeal processes already in place in local schools that make this bill unnecessary,” Lane said.

Representative Megan Hess, a Republican from Spencer, said while that may be the case, it may be time to pass a bill making it clear parents have the right to appeal these decisions.

“I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for a parent to not only fight the principal…and then endure the next six or seven years in the school, having fought the principal, and then try to fight the superintendent as well,” Hess said.

Representative Tedd Gassman, a Republican from Scarville, voted to advance the bill.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to come down on the side of parents on this,” Gassman said.

With the support of Gassman and Hess, the bill is now eligible for consideration in the House Education Committee.