Utah Legislature discusses critical race theory in ‘extraordinary session’

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The Utah State Legislature called an “extraordinary session” to discuss critical race theory and becoming a second amendment sanctuary state on Wednesday afternoon.

Both the Utah State Senate and the Utah State House passed two separate resolutions surrounding critical race theory being taught in public schools. The house passed H.R 901 and the senate passed S.R 901 which both “identified the risks of critical race theory” and recommended against using it in public school curriculum.

The votes led to protests from people who did and did not support the resolution on Utah’s Capitol Hill. Every single democrat in the house chamber also walked out during the vote as a sign of protest towards the resolution.

The Utah State Legislature called an “extraordinary session” to discuss critical race theory and becoming a second amendment sanctuary state on Wednesday afternoon. (Decker Westenburg)

Gov. Spencer Cox originally called the lawmakers into a special session Wednesday morning. Lawmakers voted on 22 different issues. Topics ranged from changing enactment dates on previously passed bills to discussing public student mask mandates. 

Republican lawmakers urged Gov. Cox to include critical race theory in the special session, but Gov. Cox refused stating that this issue, “would benefit from more time, thought, dialogue and input.”

“I have spent several weeks studying and talking to parents, teachers and education officials about this issue. I am on record saying that CRT has no place in our curriculum.” Gov. Cox said in a letter to lawmakers. 

One day after Gov. Cox called the special session, lawmakers in both the house and the senate called their own “extraordinary sessions” to consider resolutions protecting the second amendment in Utah and prohibiting critical race theory from being taught in schools. 

“Extraordinary sessions” are typically only used to confirm judicial appointments. They do not require lawmakers to publish bills or resolutions ahead of time. 

Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, a teacher by profession, opposed the resolution. “We are making a resolution during an extraordinary session without having people come and comment about it,” she said.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, shared that he also really struggled with the resolution but did express support for it. “This is a resolution, not a bill. This carries no force of law. If this resolution had been done in a different manner, I would vote no and feel good about it,” Thatcher said. “If we cannot find consensus around the subject that all should be created equal and should be judged by moral character.”

Lawmakers nationwide have become increasingly interested in critical race theory with at least seven states introducing bills to limit topics about race and inequity being taught in schools.

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