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Here’s what Utah Sen. Todd Weiler’s bill on gender identity in schools actually does

The Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City, Jan. 11, 2023.
Saige Miller
The Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City, Jan. 11, 2023.

Transgender youth have been a focal point of the 2023 Utah Legislative Session.

After quickly passing a ban on transgender surgery and hormone therapies (which the governor signed), another bill would clarify what Utah schools must do if a student changes their name and pronouns.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler is the sponsor of SB100. It requires a school to receive parental consent if a child chooses to go by a different name or pronoun on official school records. It also states a school cannot withhold a child’s school record from a parent.

Weiler first had the idea to draft the legislation when a constituent contacted him about a Salt Lake City School District policy.

“I was really surprised, maybe even shocked to learn that the policy basically said that the school could adopt a written transition plan for a transgender student, and then the principal would decide if the parents were supportive enough to be notified,” he said.

Weiler said the policy raised questions around “parental rights” by keeping a private file about a student “hidden away.” He was particularly concerned that the policy included elementary schools.

The district has since removed the policy, which Weiler said he “is very grateful for.” But he thought it was important to codify a state policy for other school districts.

“I don't personally believe that the student's right to privacy outweighs the parental rights, especially for an elementary school child,” he said.

The bill has gone through some changes, though.

At first, it “would prohibit without parental consent, treating a student in a manner that relates to gender identity that [does] not correspond with a student's sex.”

But Marina Lowe, the policy director with Equality Utah, said the organization had some apprehensions with that language.

“We were sort of most notably concerned about some very vague language that was contained in a couple of lines that sort of required parental permission in writing when a child wanted to be called something different in a school setting and felt that was very vague [and] there were some potential legal issues there,” she said.

Weiler agreed that the language “may actually create more ambiguity than is helpful,” and ended up striking it from the bill. In return, Equality Utah testified in favor of the bill during two committee hearings.

“When a student wants to have their official records changed at school or sort of embarks on an official transition plan, then the school needs to secure permission from the parents and let the parents in on that conversation,” Lowe said. “I don't think that's an unreasonable position.”

Weiler considers himself to be “LGBT friendly” in his personal and legislative life and said he crafted the legislation in a way that wouldn’t require a teacher or counselor to “out” an LGBTQ+ student.

The bill does not require a teacher to call a parent if a student asks them to address them by a different name or pronoun. But it also doesn’t prohibit them from doing so, either.

SB100 passed the Senate on a 22-6 vote. All Democrats voted against the bill. It now heads to the House for final consideration.

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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