Parents, this is critical information you must understand to protect your family.
You and your children have a right to conscience that has not always been respected in our public education system.
This past legislative session, HB 348, Participation Waiver Amendments, was sponsored by Representative Cheryl Acton and Senator Mike Kennedy. It does something amazing in protecting families from those times when a student in class feels something is violating their belief system. They now have an out.
However, the key to this bill is GETTING EDUCATED ON HOW IT WORKS.
It’s really simple, but if you don’t know it exists, you can’t use it.
Know your rights and protect your family.
If you are faced with an issue where the school violates your or your child’s rights, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org AND email@example.com. The audit address is for the state office to investigate, and the board address is to make sure the state board knows an infraction has occurred.
3 things to get educated:
1) I have made a video with State board member Natalie Cline, Monica Wilbur from HigherGround.work, and myself discussing this bill and how it works. Please watch it here:
2) Here are handouts Representative Acton passed out for Q&A to help everyone understand the bill and alleviate concerns.
The bill passed in the Senate on a unanimous vote 27-0-2. In the House it was 51-17-7. Governor Cox signed the bill. It’s law.
3) Here is a link to the bill but I’m also including the text so you can read it here. The protections I have colored red. Use this code language and reference any time a school issue arises to show officials that you understand your rights and they must back down.
If you’re unfamiliar with reading a bill, strikeout text is being removed from code and underlined text is added by the bill.
House Bill 348
7 LONG TITLE
8 General Description:
9 This bill clarifies how a school responds when a student refrains from participation in
10 school due to a student’s or a student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience.
11 Highlighted Provisions:
12 This bill:
13 ▸ defines terms;
14 ▸ clarifies how a school responds when a student refrains from participation in school
15 due to a student’s or a student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience,
16 consistent with Utah Constitution, Article I, Section 4;
17 ▸ grants the State Board of Education rulemaking authority; and
18 ▸ makes technical and conforming changes.
19 Money Appropriated in this Bill:
21 Other Special Clauses:
23 Utah Code Sections Affected:
25 53G-10-203, as renumbered and amended by Laws of Utah 2018, Chapter 3
26 53G-10-205, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2019, Chapter 293
30 53G-10-203. Expressions of belief — Discretionary time.
31 (1) Expression of personal beliefs by a student participating in school-directed
32 curricula or activities may not be prohibited or penalized unless the expression unreasonably
33 interferes with order or discipline, threatens the well-being of persons or property, or violates
34 concepts of civility or propriety appropriate to a school setting.
35 (2) (a) As used in this section, “discretionary time” means noninstructional time during
36 which a student is free to pursue personal interests.
37 (b) Free exercise of voluntary religious practice or freedom of speech by students
38 during discretionary time shall not be denied unless the conduct unreasonably interferes with
39 the ability of school officials to maintain order and discipline, unreasonably endangers persons
40 or property, or violates concepts of civility or propriety appropriate to a school setting.
41 (3) Any limitation under [Sections 53G-10-203 and 53G-10-205] this section on
42 student expression, practice, or conduct shall be by the least restrictive means necessary to
43 satisfy the school’s interests [as stated in those sections], or to satisfy another specifically
44 identified compelling governmental interest.
45 Section 2. Section 53G-10-205 is amended to read:
46 53G-10-205. Waivers of participation.
47 (1) As used in this section[, “school”]:
48 (a) “School” means a public school.
49 (b) “Student” means a public school student in kindergarten through grade 12.
50 [(2) If a parent of a student, or a secondary student, determines that the student’s
51 participation in a portion of the curriculum or in an activity would require the student to affirm
52 or deny a religious belief or right of conscience, or engage or refrain from engaging in a
53 practice forbidden or required in the exercise of a religious right or right of conscience, the
54 parent or the secondary student may request:]
55 [(a) a waiver of the requirement to participate; or]
56 [(b) a reasonable alternative that requires reasonably equivalent performance by the
57 student of the secular objectives of the curriculum or activity in question.]
58 [(3)] (2) (a) In accordance with Utah Constitution, Article I, Section 4, a student may
59 refrain from participation in any aspect of school that violates a religious belief or right of
60 conscience of the student.
61 (b) A school may not, in any aspect of school:
62 (i) require or incentivize a student to affirm or deny the student’s or the student’s
63 parent’s religious belief or right of conscience;
64 (ii) engage a student in a practice that violates or is contrary to the student’s or the
65 student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience; or
66 (iii) penalize or discriminate against a student for refraining from participation due to
67 the student’s or the student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience.
68 (3) [The school shall] When a student refrains from participating in any aspect of
69 school that violates the student’s or the student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience,
70 the school:
71 (a) shall promptly notify [a] the student’s parent [if the secondary student makes a
72 request under Subsection (2).];
73 (b) may offer an alternative that does not violate the student’s or the student’s parent’s
74 religious belief or right of conscience; and
75 (c) may not require the student or the student’s parent to explain, defend, or justify the
76 student’s or the student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience.
77 (4) A student’s parent may waive the student’s participation in any aspect of school that
78 violates the student’s or the student’s parent’s religious belief or right of conscience.
79 (5) In accordance with Title 63G, Chapter 3, Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act, the
80 state board shall make rules consistent with this section.
81 [(4) If a request is made under Subsection (2), the school shall:]
82 [(a) waive the participation requirement;]
83 [(b) provide a reasonable alternative to the requirement; or]
84 [(c) notify the requesting party that participation is required.]
85 [(5) The school shall ensure that the provisions of Subsection 53G-10-203(3) are met
86 in connection with any required participation under Subsection (4)(c).]
87 [(6) A student’s academic or citizenship performance may not be penalized if the
88 secondary student or the student’s parent chooses to exercise a religious right or right of
89 conscience in accordance with the provisions of this section.]