How HB 234 could stifle public education in Utah

On Feb. 2, Indiana, Oklahoma, Iowa and Utah introduced new bills that would limit what teachers could say or teach in their classrooms. 

In Indiana, WHAS reported that HB 1134 would force schools to post lesson plans in an online portal and have parents either opt-in or opt-out of lesson plans that they do or do not approve of. In Iowa, HF 2117 would require that security cameras be installed in classrooms so that parents can watch their children’s classes according to NBC News.

The Students’ Religious Belief Protection Act in Oklahoma could allow teachers to be sued for $10,000 from their own pay, barring the use of school funds if they provide religious beliefs that are different from a student’s own views as reported by The Independent

In Utah, HB 234 was introduced in January but was dropped following a petition with over 30,000 signatures as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. The bill would have been used to force teachers into posting syllabi to be inspected and approved by parents.  

Since then, lawmakers have moved forward with SB 137 which would have originally allowed parents to sue for “any perceived infringement of rights as a parent,” per The Salt Lake Tribune. The bill was modified on Feb. 3 to remove that specific part of the bill. 

Jen McKenzie, an assistant professor of special education at Southern Utah University, commented on HB 234, saying that these bills are being used to block many controversial topics such as critical race theory. 

“The folks who are supporting these bills don’t want kids to hear what they’re labeling as ‘traumatizing’ or things that make them feel bad,” McKenzie said. “The parents don’t want to have these hard discussions with kids.”

McKenzie also feels that the reason that these issues are so popular today is because of social media. 

“This isn’t unusual,” McKenzie said. “Politicians have attacked public schools and attacked teachers to gain a political following. I don’t think this is any different than any of the other attacks on teachers that have happened over the years — I think we just know more about it.”

McKenzie also said that a potential teacher strike could be on the horizon if the bill is passed. 

If the bill is passed, the Iron County School District would be one of the many school districts in Utah that will have to abide by the new law. 

The bills in Utah, Iowa and Oklahoma have yet to pass through the House committee phase but HB 1134 in Indiana has already moved forward to the state’s Senate committee vote. 

Article by: Luke McKenzie

Photo courtesy of Christopher Dimond