There’s been what one legislator describes as an “escalation” in the debate over whether a 2015 conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning Iowa youth offered inappropriate sexual advice to minors.
Critics say students who attended the conference were exposed to X-rated material and the House Government Oversight Committee is investigating. The executive director of Iowa Safe Schools — the conference organizer — has had his attorney notify the committee that he will not voluntarily appear before the panel to answer questions.
“I think it’s a poor form and an escalation for Mr. Monson to decline to come in,” says Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton who is chairman of the oversight committee. “…I would like to see Mr. Monson honor his promise because he had initially said multiple times that he wanted to come in,” Kaufmann says. “He wanted to talk about how great the conference was.”
The attorney for Iowa Safe Schools executive director Nate Monson says his client won’t appear before the committee because there is a “misconception” the event is state-funded and his testimony would blur the “bright line” between his privately-financed organization and the “regulatory authority of the state.” Kaufmann says taxpayer dollars were involved because school districts paid for registration fees and transportation to the event.
“To hide behind a letter from your lawyer, to me it’s concerning,” Kaufmann says. “To me, it kind of shows guilt.”
Last fall, the Iowa Safe Schools executive director accused Republican legislators of conducting a “witch hunt” against homosexual kids. The attorney’s letter to legislators defended the conference, saying the event has provided “important and life-saving information” about safe sex that students cannot get elsewhere. The annual event started as an anti-bullying conference during former Governor Tom Vilsack’s administration and private organizers continue to call it “The Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth” — however, it is not associated with current Governor Terry Branstad.