Salt Lake City School District resumes plan to train all students on what restrooms they can use

In an email sent to families, Superintendent Elizabeth Grant said the district is starting up presentations again after a brief pause.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protestors in support of transgender rights hold a sit-in in front of a bathroom at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Elizabeth Grant told families on Thursday that school teachers and administrators will resume presentations on Utah’s new transgender public restroom ban, informing children about which restrooms they can use at school.

The move comes about a week after the district announced it would pause the trainings due to a “lack of clarity” in the law’s language, according to district spokesperson Yándary Chatwin. Though some parents were upset with the planned presentations, Chatwin said the pause was not due to parent feedback.

In the Thursday announcement to families, Grant wrote that after district officials sought clarification with education leaders and state legislators, the district would restart the presentations in order to follow the new law, HB257, ahead of May 1, the day certain enforcement mechanisms of the measure will go into effect.

According to the bill’s language, school districts are required to give notice to students of how the law will work, though guidance on what that notice should entail is not specified.

Both the Utah State Board of Education and bill sponsor Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, released statements this week explaining that it’s up to school districts to individually determine how best to present information on the ban to students.

“We remain committed to making sure our schools remain safe, welcoming places for all our students, families, and staff,” Grant’s message Thursday stated.

How will the trainings be presented?

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Elizabeth Grant speaks during a school board meeting in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024.

Grant’s message to families Thursday followed a separate email she sent district employees Wednesday, informing them that the presentations would resume.

The message to staff noted school leaders will decide, “based on their school community’s needs, the best manner and messenger(s) to deliver the presentation to their students.”

Chatwin told The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday that this meant a principal could, for example, decide they want to hold a school assembly where the presentation is shown to students. Or, like Emerson Elementary School intended to do on April 19, broadcast the slideshow during its weekly morning announcements.

The message sent to families Thursday included copies of the slideshows that would be presented to students at the K-5 level and to grades 6-12. The language used in the presentations had not been updated or changed since the district’s initial pause.

Support plans available for impacted students, district says

Kristen Kinjo, an Emerson parent who organized an April 19 rally at the school to protest the district’s planned presentations, said she was disappointed to see the slides still did not “acknowledge the existence” of transgender and nonbinary children.

“Ignoring the children who don’t fall under into the gender binary is the same as erasing them,” Kinjo said.

Chatwin said the presentations are meant to inform students of the law’s exact language, “not a message about how we feel about certain students.”

“It’s strictly to provide information to students about the law,” she said.

She added that the district has policies to “support students with various different needs.” This includes the district’s G-24 Gender Inclusion policy, which can help affected students create a support plan. That could include providing “reasonable accommodations” for transgender and nonbinary students, the policy states.

The district continues to proactively reach out to “impacted families” about the law and how the district can best assist them, Chatwin said. The district identifies impacted families as those who have already approached officials about creating a support plan for their children under the inclusion policy.