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Utah school district reviews use of ‘Social-Emotional Learning’ after several parents raised concerns



Sandy, Utah — In September, the district paused its use of the Second Step Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) program in elementary and middle schools after several parents raised concerns.

A notice to parents reads: “the Second Step curriculum, although supported by many, has links to information that may not meet the community’s expectations and needs.”

“Our children matter, and what they are being taught in school matters,” said Lisa Logan, a parent of two children in the Canyons School District. “Lesson by lesson, slide by slide — we looked at the teacher handout and lesson plan and we looked at the student handout.”
Logan and another parent composed a 25-page document detailing what they perceive as issues with the material. They the Second Step Social-Emotional Learning curriculum for 8th-grade students. “When it’s done through a political or ideological lens, it is not healthy for our children,” Logan said.

The program aims to teach students how to gain confidence, set goals, make better decisions, collaborate with others, and navigate the world more effectively, according to the Second Step website. “It goes beyond pushing kids to be kind to people who are different from them and to accept these ideologies and to be social justice activists for them,” she said.

The issue was placed on the agenda for Tuesday night’s board meeting after the district decided to pause the program. In Order to develop its own social-emotional learning curriculum, superintendent Rick Robins proposed a plan for the district. During the public comment portion of the meeting, parents and educators on both sides of the issue offered their opinions to the board. “I have not signed up for group therapy for issues my children most likely do not even have,” said one parent who was against the current Social-Emotional Learning content.

Meanwhile, several others expressed anger with the district for pausing the curriculum and spoke of the program’s benefits. “We need to teach problem-solving,” said one parent who supports SEL. “We need to teach empathy. We need to do that in combination with the family and the home.”

A woman tried to hold back tears as she said, “I am very dedicated to supporting the social and emotional needs of our students as well as creating more equitable systems in our schools.”

The board decided to delay a vote on the issue until its next meeting on October 19.