Utah’s mixed and conflicting views about what is acceptable in schools

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Utah’s Legislative session had two proposed bills about schools demonstrating conflicting and opposing views about what is or isn’t acceptable in schools.

HB269 (Public School History Curricula Amendments) was a bill proposing the addition of the Ten Commandments and the Magna Carta to school curricula. When HB269 was introduced, it proposed requiring public schools to display a poster or framed copy of the Ten Commandments but was later altered to add the Ten Commandments and the Magna Carta to a list of historical documents they could have students study.

HB303 (School Curriculum Requirements) was a bill “[prohibiting] school officials and employees from endorsing, promoting, or disparaging certain beliefs or viewpoints.”

After learning about these two proposed bills, I couldn’t believe that our Legislature didn’t want teachers or school employees to express their beliefs, yet they wanted the Ten Commandments to be displayed around schools. When it comes to Utah’s legislative session, I am usually frustrated that our Legislature doesn’t separate religious beliefs when deciding whether a bill should be passed.

Why are we OK with passing a bill that would teach a part of a religion, yet we aren’t OK with school employees expressing their beliefs? While teachers or staff shouldn’t try to push their beliefs on students, expressing beliefs can allow a child to feel safe in a school. For instance, if a child is a part of the LGBTQ+ community but their family isn’t supportive, a teacher having a pride flag can allow a child to be themselves because they know they are in an environment that supports them. Therefore, we shouldn’t restrict school employees from expressing their beliefs. School employees should ensure they aren’t trying to influence the children’s beliefs as well.

Saray Espinoza Serrano, Salt Lake City

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