Apr 19, 2024 - News

Salt Lake School District pauses student training on transgender bathroom law

Transgender and Pride flags are placed on a gate.

Pride and transgender flags and symbols hang outside of Emerson Elementary School in Salt Lake City on April 19. Photo: Kim Bojórquez/Axios

The Salt Lake City School District is pausing plans to present a slideshow to students on legislation that regulates public restroom access for transgender people.

The big picture: The move came just before parents and students had planned a demonstration outside Emerson Elementary School on Friday morning, opposing the presentation scheduled for later that day.

The latest: An email to parents on Friday at 7:25am said the district's superintendent Elizabeth Grant had asked all district schools "hold off on HB 257 training until further notice."

  • "Given the uncertainty of how to implement the law, we decided to hold off for now and to work individually with the families and students who are directly impacted," Yándary Chatwin, a spokesperson for the district, told Axios.
  • Chatwin said the protest was not behind the decision.

Zoom in: The Emerson demonstration, described as a 15-minute "dance party" to support transgender students by one parent, still happened that morning.

  • Police officers were present at the school during the display — a move that Chatwin said was "standard procedure" for any type of planned school protest.
  • Chatwin noted this is the first time she's seen a protest at an elementary school.

Catch up quick: School officials alerted parents at Emerson on Wednesday that the slideshow training would take place Friday.

  • The presentation instructs students to talk to a parent or school employee if they aren't sure which bathroom to use, and to tell the principal if they are being bullied, Axios previously reported.
  • "If you do not feel comfortable in the bathroom you are directed to use, let us help you make a plan," it continues.

Context: HB 257, signed by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox in January, prohibits transgender people from using public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

  • The trainings at schools are required under the law, which takes effect May 1.
  • Salt Lake had instructed its schools to complete the training prior to that date.

What they're saying: Kristen Kinjo, the parent of a fourth grader at Emerson who said she organized the demonstration, said she wanted to express solidarity with LGBTQ+ children.

  • "All three of my kids have trans kids in their classrooms who are affected by this," she told Axios.

Threat level: Exclusionary bathroom policies can harm the mental and physical health of students and lead to stigma and discrimination, according to the American Medical Association.

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