ST. GEORGE — Following the Utah Legislature’s repeal of a law that banned speech in schools by students and teachers advocating homosexuality, LGBT advocacy groups have dropped a lawsuit against the Utah State Board of Education.
The lawsuit was originally filed by Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of three plaintiffs from the Jordan, Weber and Cache school districts who said they had no recourse for harassment they experienced at school and were unfairly disciplined.
One of the plaintiffs, described as a lesbian teen, stated in the lawsuit that she was singled out in middle school and disciplined for holding another girl’s hand and became afraid to speak about her identity for fear of further punishment. Another plaintiff, an 8-year-old boy, was harassed for being a non-gender conforming boy.
The bill repealing the so-called “No Promo Homo” law was passed in the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in March.
The Utah State Board of Education submitted a letter to school districts Sept. 19 instructing them to revise any outdated policies to align with current standards set by Senate Bill 196, Health Education Amendments.
“The Utah State Board of Education desires each student in Utah public schools to receive a high-quality education free from all manner of discrimination, which can take the form of bullying, based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity,” the letter reads.
Any districts and charter schools failing to follow the board’s rules are subject to corrective action and withdrawal or reduction of program funds.
“The law really created this chilling culture. It sent a message to teachers and young LGBT students that their impulse to love was something that was so shameful that it dare not be spoken of in the classroom – it needed to be censored, it needed to be erased,” Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said in a previous interview with St. George News.
“So this law that has been creating this culture of silence in Utah public schools is now gone, and we believe that will create a more affirming, accepting, inclusive culture for young people,” Williams said.
St. George News senior reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.
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