Support Local Control in Administrating State Standards
Anti-obscenity bills are trojan horses designed to subvert local control
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NEW UTAH BILL SEEKS TO BAN "SENSITIVE MATERIALS" AND UNDERMINE LOCAL CONTROL
We are concerned that the Utah House of Representatives is considering a bill, HB374, Sensitive Materials in Schools, that would prohibit the use of many legitimate instructional materials including library books and databases, as well as censor what teachers and librarians can say in the classroom -- under threat of $10,000 lawsuits.
This bill would broadly label many books and topics as “sensitive material” if there is any “gratuitous use of vulgar, profane, or obscene language” or “discussion or representation of sexual conduct.” Labeling and prohibiting materials and speech this broadly would result in the effective banning of many books and educational resources, the silencing of teachers, and would create a significant chilling effect on what could be taught in our schools.
If HB374 is passed into law, it would create a financial incentive for parents to file numerous frivolous complaints because the accuser would stand to collect $10,000 per complaint. This would no doubt put an unmanageable strain on our schools, which are already struggling to educate our kids during a pandemic, while also dealing with the challenges of historical underfunding and understaffing. The law doesn’t even allow for schools or teachers to demonstrate that educational materials are legitimate -- they would simply have to remove all materials alleged to be in violation within 30 days or face the $10,000 lawsuit.
WE SUPPORT LOCAL CONTROL IN ADMINISTERING STATE EDUCATION STANDARDS
Under the 30 day window for book removal established by HB374, school districts would not have time to follow their legitimately passed challenge policies, which generally require the formation of reconsideration committees which are tasked with reading all materials, deliberating, and issuing recommendations along with a detailed and reasoned report that outlines how their conclusion is supported by law and local policy, and how it supports student success as defined by state education standards. Districts would therefore be forced to either engage in unconstitutional book removal (opening themselves up to expensive legal challenges), or follow their policies which would pen themselves up to parental lawsuits permitted by HB374.
Utah already has clear statewide education standards, as well as curricula that have been established by locally accountable school boards in a public, transparent, and consultative manner with input from parents and the community. HB374 undermines local control, and puts school boards between in an unwinnable situation.
We believe that Utah student success is best supported when local administrators, professional educators, and librarians -- not politicians seeking to divide us so they can score cheap political points -- make decisions about which educational materials best serve students academic needs and fulfill the requirements of state education standards.
ADD YOUR NAME TO THE LIST OF THOSE THAT OPPOSE THIS BILL
Add your name to the list if you support teachers, and oppose censoring their speech and tying their hands in the classroom, under threat of expensive litigation that will waste local taxpayer’s money when schools are forced to defend against such frivolous lawsuits that are encouraged by HB374.