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Do substitute teachers need sensitivity training? A new bill would require it

Utah State Capitol. 1/27/20 (Colby Walker | KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill requiring that teachers hired through temporary agencies in Utah receive sensitivity training passed through the Senate Education Committee Monday.

An incident in Alpine School District last fall inspired Senator Karen Mayne (D-West Valley City) to sponsor SB198.

Mayne says a fill-in teacher berated a fifth-grade child at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills last Thanksgiving.  The boy told the class he was grateful for his two adopted dads.

According to several other students in the class, the substitute teacher harassed the 9-year old by saying “that’s nothing to be thankful for.  Two men living together is a sin,” and “why on earth would you be happy about that?”  The teacher was fired and escorted from the school.

Mayne says she’s heard other stories about teachers bullying students. Further, she says substitute teachers aren’t informed of a school district’s code of conduct and ethics when a third party agency hires them.

The Senate Education Committee endorsed SB198 with a 4-1 vote.  The only dissenter was Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R-South Jordan). He said he worries the requirement will make it “impossible to find a substitute teacher at short notice.”

Fillmore also says the term “sensitivity training” isn’t defined in the bill. During debate he asked, “what does that entail?”

Mayne says Fillmore’s concern can be addressed by providing a simple briefing or written instructions. She says a district or charter school could make that decision.

The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.