Bill has implications for gay students
The House Education Committee of the House of Representatives advanced House Bill 236, for the second reading of the Student Club Amendment Wednesday, Jan. 24. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, provides for additional requirements to existing state and federal regulations for authorization of curricular and non-curricular clubs. The bill will be debated by the House before a vote will is taken. Should it receive a favorable vote, the bill will be introduced to the Senate.
A similar bill, also sponsored by Tilton, failed in 2006. The controversial bill was proposed to allow more parental and administrative supervision of high school clubs on school property, but the divisive issue of the bill focused on the granting of club status to gay student-alliance clubs.
Bill 236 imposes more stringent requirements for student club organization and membership, including parental consent. Those in opposition to the bill see the parental consent as a stipulation that would possibly prevent some gay members from seeking club membership. Also, detractors see problems with the additional paperwork and bookkeeping requiring authorization by the school principal, which might discourage formation and maintenance of clubs. "I’m baffled by why you want all these rules," said Representative Carol Spackman Moss, a retired educator.
"Actually I don’t think it’s that difficult to bring information to the principal," responded Tilton.
With discussion of parental consent before students can join clubs, Tilton said his intention "was not to make consent onerous. It’s a simple consent form."
Rep. Greg Hughes, the committee chair, offered time to the public to voice support or opposition to the bill.
Stephen F. Graham, President of the Standard of Liberty Foundation, specifically opposed gay clubs, as he believed they promote sexual behavior, which he believes could influence students negatively and lead to experimentation.
Denise Wayman, a former Key-Club member at Hunter High School supports the bill. "I would love to have administration more involved," she said. It’s important for parents and the administration to know what’s going on in school. If the administration doesn’t know what’s going on in a school, how do parents know what’s going on in their own kid’s school?" She said she is opposed to gay clubs, and feels discriminated against by having to allow gay clubs in her school.
Will Carlson, with Equality Utah, said the bill places heavy burdens on students, and requires clubs to apply for club status every year, and burdens teachers and staff administering to the additional requirements. Carlson said state and Federal laws already address club organization and membership.
Before taking a vote on advancing HB 236, Moss added her final thoughts. "I agree involvement is something we’d like to see," she said. "I don’t think we should legislate parental involvement. We then become a ‘Super school board.’ She added that the paperwork the bill would require would be a lot of work for clubs. Her main opposition came from the audience, which she felt were completely centered on the gay/straight issues. "I will oppose this bill," Moss said. "I am passionate about preserving rights, which I see as far more important than parental involvement."
Carol Lear of the State Board of Education, called the bill unnecessary, saying that school boards should have the flexibility to make their own decisions.
The bill passed by vote of the standing committee.
Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, after the vote, said, "The legislation is unnecessary. It’s not created out of need or desire to create positive changes for Utahans. It is very clearly targeted at gay, straight alliances." Every year these people who feel entitled to legislate morality and to legislate discrimination they get out and have this agenda,. You don’t see a lot of people coming off the street saying we’re really upset that there’s this club."
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