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Senator: DMPS documents highlight need to get rid of voluntary diversity plans in Iowa

The plans are meant to ensure student demographics are reflective of the community. But some worry they're used to deny transfers to those who need it most.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa lawmakers are pushing to repeal voluntary diversity programs in the five districts across the state that have adopted them. 

In 2009, Des Moines, Waterloo, Davenport, West Liberty and Postville school districts adopted the plans. 

They're meant to make sure student demographics are reflective of the community.

To keep those ratios, districts are allowed to use their diversity plans as a reason to deny students' requests to transfer out of the district.

"What we're talking about is nearly 60,000 students across the state of Iowa that aren't given the same opportunity to choose what's best for their child's educational needs," Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, said. "That just flies in the face of what open enrollment is."

Last month, Local 5 discovered confidential documents published on the Des Moines Public Schools' website. 

RELATED: Twice a Victim | Confidential documents show DMPS denied transfers for alleged victims of rape, assault and bullying

The documents detailed reasons why the district denied open enrollment requests. 

Some of the students who were requesting to leave the district include alleged bullying, assault and rape victims. 

Sinclair said those documents highlight the need to change the law. 

"Students should not have their physical health, their mental health, their well-being and educational opportunities decided by a board; they should be decided by the parents," Sinclair said. 

But Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, said he worries if diversity plans are repealed, it could lead to segregation. 

"The best educational setting for a student is one that has the diversity that reflects that of the community of which it is a part of," Giddens said. "Your school is a lot more than reading, writing and arithmetic; it's how to live with other people, work with them and be prepared for that once they're out of school."

There is a fiscal note attached to one of the bills that would repeal voluntary diversity plans. 

It estimates how much money a district could lose if this legislation becomes law. 

According to the note, Des Moines Public Schools could possibly lose $1.4 million.