Implementation of new Utah bathroom law causes confusion in SLC School District

Apr 19, 2024, 3:41 PM | Updated: Apr 23, 2024, 12:00 am

sign says "trans lives matter," the sign was for a protest about how slc school district was implem...

Parents placed balloons and posters along the fence that said "Trans Lives Matter." (Heather Peterson/KSL NewsRadio)

(Heather Peterson/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School District’s superintendent is reversing course on giving presentations to students about the new bathroom regulations required by a new Utah law that takes effect in May. 

School administrators were directed to give slideshow presentations to all K-12 students, to explain they would need to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth. However, after receiving negative feedback from parents, the district has chosen a new method of delivery.

The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Kera Birkeland joined Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News to discuss how the should be implemented.


New Utah bathroom law takes effect soon

HB257 goes into effect May 1.

Yándary Chatwin, spokesperson for the Salt Lake City School District, told KSL NewsRadio the district needed to inform all students ahead of the implementation of the new bathroom law in Utah, not just parents.

“An email wouldn’t have sufficed. A flyer wouldn’t have either,” said Chatwin. “We wanted to make sure there was consistency in the messaging–that one teacher didn’t deliver a message one way and at a different school, kids were hearing things a different way.”

On Wednesday, parents at Emerson Elementary School said they learned their students would receive these presentations during the school’s weekly broadcast.

They were provided with the slides and told the information would be shared between 8:00-8:20 a.m. on Friday, in case they wanted their children to avoid viewing the presentations.

Discontent over implementation strategy

But some parents at Emerson were still not happy these presentations would be delivered.

Kristen Kinjo, the parent of a fourth grader at Emerson, has been against the law in general, but also felt the method of implementation would also be harmful to some students. She helped stage a dance party protest Friday morning at the same time as the planned presentations.

“Any kids who were choosing not to participate in the presentations or any families who were pulling their kids out of the presentations would have somewhere to go where they felt loved,” Kinjo said.

However, before the demonstration took place, Salt Lake City Police contacted Kinjo. They told her people were prohibited from gathering on the soccer field or other school grounds for their protest.

Kinjo said a handful of officers were there Friday morning to monitor the activity. Parents still placed balloons and posters along the fence that said “Trans Lives Matter,” but Kinjo said the atmosphere was intimidating and the dance party protest did not happen as planned.

Multiple districts, multiple interpretations

Kinjo pointed out other school districts are handling the implementation of the Utah bathroom law differently.

Granite School District Spokesperson Ben Horsley confirmed this information and said the district would not be delivering big, public demonstrations.

“We gave instructions to our principals to share with employees and/or students/families who this might impact, and direct them back to the district if they have questions,” Horsley said.

After hearing about the pushback from families, Salt Lake City School District administrators were told to pull back on the planned presentations. Parents at Emerson were emailed around 7:25 a.m. Friday morning that the presentations had been canceled.

The email from Principal April Reynolds to parents read: “[Superintendent] Dr. [Elizabeth] Grant has asked that SLCSD schools hold off on HB 257 training until further notice. The information will not be presented to students at Emerson.” 

Chatwin now says the way the new law should be shared with students is unclear. 

“Given the uncertainty of how to implement the law, we are going to start working individually with the families and students who will be directly impacted by this new law,” Chatwin said. “There’s just a lot of uncertainty about implementation. This is a big change for districts across the state, so we are starting with impacted families.”

Reynolds told Kinjo via email the district is working with the legislature to clarify the implementation of this new law.

She said they are very concerned about how this will impact the students. They are working hard to advocate for and support Emerson students, recognizing how this law impacts those in the LGBTQ+ community.

This story has been edited to correct how Kristen Kinjo was not only against the method of implementation, but the law itself.

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Implementation of new Utah bathroom law causes confusion in SLC School District