A "controversial issues" bill in Utah

Arches National Park, Utah.

Arches National Park, Utah. Photo by SoloTravelGoals on Unsplash.

Utah's House Bill 441 might, if enacted, have adverse consequences for science education in the Beehive State.

Section 2 of the bill would require local education agencies in the state to develop a neutrality policy, which would, inter alia, prohibit their employees from "advocating for or promoting controversial issues; .. asserting a personal belief as fact; or ... presenting facts in a biased manner."

The bill defines "controversial issue" as "a topic that is socially unresolved, generates highly divergent and contentious opinions, or is not age appropriate." While no specific issues are described in the bill as controversial, evolution and climate change — though not scientifically controversial — are often regarded as socially controversial.

Local education agencies would also be required to "establish a process to evaluate whether the controversial issue is appropriate and in accordance with" the section of the Utah Code on state education standards. But there is no indication of what depends on whether the controversial issue is found to be appropriate and in accordance with the standards.

Sponsored by Mark A. Strong (R-District 47), the bill was introduced on February 13, 2023, and is awaiting assignment to a committee.

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.