Local control aspect removed in motto posting bill

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Local control aspect removed in motto posting bill

Local control lost out in a legislative committee.


On a 10-2 vote, House State Affairs committee members approved an amended version of Senate Bill 55, which requires public schools to display the national motto of the United States – “In God We Trust” – in a prominent location in their buildings with, at minimum, a 12″x12″ display.


Committee members amended out the permissive “may” display, replacing it with “shall” thus circumventing the local control of school districts to make the decision that best fits their district. ASBSD opposes the bill.


“This is something that should be decided at the local level,” ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany told committee members, adding that some school boards would welcome the opportunity, while others may decide against the display to avoid any potential issues that may arise in their communities.


An additional amendment prescribes that the display, which must be placed in “a prominent location” in the school building, be at minimum 12 inches wide by 12 inches high and be “easily readable.” The title of the bill was also amended to remove “allows” with “requires” as it relates to schools posting the display.


Rep. Chris Johnson, the bill’s prime sponsor on the House side, said the “characterization” that the bill is imposing religion on the public “is simply inaccurate.”


“We live in a troubled world today. We’re all looking for help,” Rep. Johnson said. “Kids and teachers all over our state and country are for sure looking for help. Who can we all look to for help?”


“I hope we can all come together and acknowledge where our help truly comes from.”


Pogany requested committee members consider a hold harmless clause for school boards that would ensure the state represents the district should a legal challenge be brought against the school and cover any legal costs or damages incurred.


“This could incite litigation,” Pogany said. “I think you have a responsibility then to hold the schools harmless.”


“Don’t pass this as a mandate and then walk away and say, ‘Good luck, school boards.’”


A request echoed by Rep. Spencer Gosch.


“I would like to see a hold harmless (clause),” Rep. Gosch told his fellow committee members. “I do have issues with the local control and the mandates. If we’re going to own this as a state, let’s own it.”


SB 55 now heads to the House floor for review.


For updates on this bill and others, check the ASBSD BlogTwitter feedFacebook page and Bill Tracker.

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