No kindergarten unless potty trained? Why a Utah lawmaker is pushing for the mandate.

The proposal is in response to what Rep. Douglas Welton says is a growing number of Utah kindergarteners who aren’t fully potty trained.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Restroom passes hang in a class at Aspen Elementary School in South Jordan on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. A proposed bill would require that Utah students be potty trained before enrolling in kindergarten.

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Utah parents may soon need to ensure their child is potty trained if they want to enroll them in kindergarten, according to a newly proposed bill.

Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson, unveiled HB331, which would require the Utah State Board of Education to create rules mandating toilet training as a “condition” for kindergarten enrollment.

The bill is in response to what Welton says is a growing number of Utah children entering kindergarten who aren’t fully potty trained.

While it’s not uncommon to have one or two children in a kindergarten class who haven’t been potty trained, in recent years, that number has increased to four or five children in a classroom, according to Welton’s anecdotal accounts as a teacher in Utah’s public school system.

USBE officials said that while they do not track data on toilet training, a “number” of districts throughout the state have expressed problems with kindergartens not being toilet trained.

Welton said the problem not only presents health risks for children but creates “liability” issues for teachers who opt to assist a child who has soiled themselves. He added it’s especially concerning in a “culture that seems to not trust our teachers.”

But at the same time, if a teacher does nothing to help a child then they’re forced to sit in “filth and squalor,” said Welton, “which is inhumane.”

“That’s not what [teachers] signed up to do, to teach kids how to potty train,” Welton said. “That’s a parent issue. That should happen before kids get to kindergarten.”

The proposal would require USBE to create a process for schools to ensure incoming kindergarten students are toilet trained, potentially including “assurances from a parent.”

It would also require USBE to create processes in the event a child is found to have not been potty trained, which could include referring the student and their parent to a school social worker or counselor for additional resources. The bill makes exceptions for students with disabilities or other conditions.

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