Student Well-Being

Utah Poised for Parental Sign-Off on Club Activities

By Jessica L. Tonn — March 06, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Legislation awaiting Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.’s signature could make the state the first in the nation to require parental permission for students to participate in school-sponsored clubs and organizations—a measure that opponents say is intended to prevent students from joining gay-straight clubs in schools.

Although similar policies already exist at the district level in various places nationwide—including in all of Utah’s 40 school districts—a similar bill recently failed in Virginia, and Utah’s measure already faces criticism from groups that both support and oppose gay-straight alliances.

Eliza Byard, the executive director of the New York City-based Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, characterizes parental-consent laws as “a system to scare kids away from gay-straight alliances,” saying that some students may be inhibited from joining such a club if required to get their parents’ permission in advance.

Requiring parental permission also concerns Joe Glover, the president of the Family Policy Network, a Washington-based Christian advocacy organization that opposes gay-straight clubs and has lobbied against them in several states.

Though the Family Policy Network last year announced that it would campaign for parental-permission provisions in five states, not including Utah, Mr. Glover said that the group since has rethought its position. He is concerned that requiring parental consent could result in students’ choosing not to join a variety of school clubs—including religious groups that his organization supports.

“We’re actually concerned about Utah reaching too far,” he said. “We did favor permission slips, but we’re not so sure about that anymore.”

The Utah legislation is intended to impose additional guidelines on student organizations without violating the Equal Access Act, the 1984 federal law that bars districts from singling out groups such as religious clubs for exclusion from high school campuses. It would do so by adding to current state regulations that let parents, acting on behalf of their children, opt out of participating in certain groups.

Approach Debated

Will Carlson, the policy and strategy coordinator for Equality Utah, a Salt Lake City-based gay-rights organization, noted every district in the state already has some form of permission-slip requirement in place. Fourteen gay-straight alliances are registered with Equality Utah, he said, although other groups that aren’t registered may exist as well.

His organization maintains that no legislation on student clubs was necessary, but is pleased that gay-straight alliances are still an option for Utah students.

As of late last week, Gov. Huntsman’s office had not indicated whether the governor, a Republican, would sign the bill. He will have 10 days to do so once it reaches his desk.

The current bill is the seventh version of the original legislation, which was debated over a period of 3½ weeks—a measure of just how controversial such proposals can be.

In addition to the bill defeated in Virginia this year, a parental-consent bill last year failed in the Georgia legislature, where lawmakers eventually settled on a law that requires schools to notify parents about all extracurricular clubs.

The Family Policy Network now supports legislation that specifies how schools notify parents about curricular and extracurricular clubs, which the Georgia law does not do, and allows parents to opt their children out of activities.

“We just want parents to sit down and talk to [their kids] about what’s happening at their schools,” Mr. Glover said.

Supporters of the Utah bill argue that the aim of the parental-consent regulation is to make sure that parents know what their children are exposed to in school, not to shut down specific groups.

“We’re just responding, as a state, to what we can do to preserve parental rights,” Rep. Aaron Tilton, a Republican and one of the bill’s sponsors, said on the House floor last month.

But the bill’s links to sentiments against pro-gay clubs are no secret.

“I’ve been on the record to say that gay clubs don’t belong in schools because I believe they’re a place of indoctrination,” Sen. D. Chris Buttars, the bill’s co-sponsor, said on the Senate floor last month.

A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2007 edition of Education Week as Utah Poised for Parental Sign-Off on Club Activities

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Pause Before You Post: A Social Media Guide for Educators in Tense Political Times
5 tips for educators and their students to avoid making harmful or false statements online that they later regret.
6 min read
Tight crop of a man's hands using a mobile phone with the popup box that reads "Delete post, Are you sure you want to delete this post? Cancel or Delete"
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion What Does the Dangerous Political Climate Mean for Schools?
Educators and researchers offer advice for navigating political polarization in the classroom.
5 min read
Grunge Collage styled urban graphic of US election
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Student Well-Being Q&A Why Educators Need to Better Understand What Drives Kids' Cellphone Addictions
As more school and day-to-day tasks are completed on smartphones and computers, teens struggle to manage their screen time.
3 min read
Young man and woman without energy on giant phone screen with speech and heart icons above them. Addiction. Contemporary art collage. Concept of social media, influence, online communication
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + iStock
Student Well-Being Q&A When Social Media and Cellphones Are Lifelines to Kids Who Feel Different
Like it or not, social media is an important venue for teens to find community and hone their identities.
4 min read
Young girl looking on mobile phone screen with multicolored social media icons. Finding community, belonging. Contemporary art collage. Concept of social media, influence, online communication and connection.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + iStock