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Is your kid potty trained? Utah could make it a requirement for kindergarten

In the lead-up to potty training, parents become very familiar with the diaper aisle, as seen here at Smith’s Grocery in Provo, Feb. 9, 2024
Tilda Wilson
In the lead-up to potty training, parents become very familiar with the diaper aisle, as seen here at Smith’s Grocery in Provo, Feb. 9, 2024

Utah lawmakers are considering a bill that would require kindergarteners to be potty trained before they start school.

Republican Rep. Douglas Welton drafted HB0331 because he said he was hearing from kindergarten teachers “who are ready to quit because there are so many kids in school that are not potty trained.”

It’s not just an unpleasant task, Welton said teachers are also worried about the legal liability they could face for helping, and the time spent away from other students.

Kindergarten students who are not potty trained “would not be allowed to go to school,” Welton said.

Instead, they’d be referred to a social worker or counselor for resources. Only after being potty trained would a student be re-integrated into the classroom. That delay in learning concerns pediatric gastroenterologist Justin Wheeler. He said difficulty with potty training is a complicated problem.

“It's not from a parent’s lack of trying or a child's unwillingness to participate, but there are some children who have developed a medical condition and parents might not have identified it yet.”

They may have “had a negative experience when they're just a little kid, withheld urine or stool and ended up with a rectum that they just really can't feel when there's stool there,” he said. This means “they end up having overflowing continence or leakage of stool, even without being able to sense or tell when it's happening.”

The bill does include some exceptions.

The first is for students with a 504 plan, which are developed with doctors and school administrators for students with disabilities that require extra support, but not specialized instruction. The second is an Individualized Education Plan, which provides similar accommodations as well as specialized instruction for a student.

“You don’t need a diagnosis specifically to have a 504 plan,” Welton said.

“You can sit down with your doctor and say ‘Hey, we have these problems and we’ve been working on this and this and this, and we've tried this,’ and they don't have to have a diagnosis to be able to say, ‘OK, well, let's get you 504 plan.”

Wheeler said getting kids who are struggling with potty training to doctors who might be able to help them solve the problem and get accommodations would be great, but he worries about kids without the resources to get access to things.

“Excluding them from school could just put them back even further on their education pathways.”

The bill was advanced by the House Education Committee on Jan. 31 and now goes to the full House for debate.

Tilda is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in the Central Utah bureau based out of Provo.
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