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Gender identity recommendations reviewed by State School Board

Image of a virtual meeting held by the Utah Board of Education on Friday September 3, 2021. Image: Zoom screen shot, YouTube

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the state school board took public comment Friday about a proposed new document. It outlines the discussion of gender identity and the use of gender pronouns in Utah classrooms.

The conversation was included in a meeting of the Standards and Assessments committee held virtually by the school board.

It’s called “Understanding Gender Identity to Better Support Students” and you can read it here.

Some who spoke in the virtual hearing said students should choose what they want to be called at school.

“It’s not that hard, I’m she/her/hers, not that difficult. And a lot of people go by they/them/theirs. That’s the most normal,” said Genevra Prothero, a parent in Davis County.

The document mentions bullying concerns for transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse students.

“The majority if not all of these students do not feel safe at school,” said Kimberly Read. She was on the educational equity advisory committee that helped draft the guidance.

The document says, “Great care should be taken when school staff engage in conversations with parents or guardians regarding their student’s gender identity.”

And another statement in the document was a red flag for some.  It reads, “If there are safety concerns it might be necessary for school staff to contact DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services). Under these circumstances, the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) should not be contacted.”

The gender identity discussion, and concern over the rights of parents

Jon England, a parent of five children and a school administrator in Weber County, said that may interfere with parental rights.

“Open communication with parents about the student’s gender identity or any other issue will always be best for the student,” he said. “These conversations create a safety net for the student, and shows the parents and the school are on the same page.”

“I feel the document has a lot that excludes parents and parental rights from the opportunity of raising their children,” said parent Wendy Wixom.

“For the most part, parents have the best interest of their child at heart. Taking parents out of the loop is concerning.”

But Jayrod Garrett, an advisor in a Layton school with the Gender Sexuality Association, had the opposite opinion.

“If they say, ‘All gays are going to hell,’ that’s what they think their child is now going to be doing,” he said. “As soon as we share that information with that parent, that parent, in that case, is now a danger to their child.”

The draft of the guidance document was only under review at the meeting. The board did not take any action. You can watch the committee meeting with all of the public comment on YouTube here.

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