Oppose SB 1166 - School Climate Policy


Please Urge Your State Senator to Vote "No" on SB 1166


     The Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference has serious concerns about SB 1166 which has been approved by the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee and will soon be considered by the State Senate. Although the legislation would not impact Catholic schools, it would very likely impact the ability of students from Catholic or other religious families to live out their faith in a public school setting.

   If enacted, SB 1166 will make every local board of education, every student, and every parent to eventually submit to supposedly locally established standards based on the guidelines promoted by a private, national organization known as the National School Climate Center. These guidelines are referred to as the National School Climate Standards. 


Although SB 1166 makes it appear that local boards of education will work with designated staff to establish local school climate standards, the new standards must be in compliance with the National School Climate Standards. Local control is basically restricted and driven by a national advocacy group. The National School Climate Standards can be modified at any time by this organization and its members. 

    It is of importance to note that the State Commissioner of Education, Charlene M. Russell-Tucker, outlined grave concerns about this legislation in her testimony before the Education Committee: “We are concerned about the adoption of the National School Climate Standards as the sole approach to address school culture and climate. These standards are developed by a private entity and school districts may incur costs for utilization. The Department was not able to access the standards on the National School Climate Center’s website.” Testimony before the General Assembly Education Committee, March 8, 2023.

Some Highlights:

  • The broad and encompassing scope of the national standards requires the teaching of “social justice” standards and school climate standards to all students. These standards must also be adhered to by all members of the school community which in Section 1(17) of the bill is defined as “any individuals, groups, businesses, public institutions and nonprofit organizations that are invested in the welfare and vitality of a public school system and the community in which it is located, including, but not limited to, students and their parents or guardians, members of the local or regional board of education, volunteers at a school and school employees”
  • What if these “social justice” standards directly conflict with a student’s or parent’s religiously held beliefs? The student and parents, under SB 1166 would be considered bullies or individuals in violation of the school climate standards and be subjected to “restorative justice” practices. Under Section 1(11) they would have to realize the harm they have done to the school community, or a group within the school community and make amends. Parents speaking out at school board meetings should be careful in what they say. Even board of education members could be subjected to “restorative justice” practices as members of the school community.
  • The term “bullying” is redefined as an “abuse of power” Section 1(4). This term is not defined, opening the door to many situations or statements being called “bullying”. A parent speaking out at a school board meeting could be accused of bullying and targeted for “restorative justice”.
  • Expands the school districts authority to address activities or statements by students or parents that occur outside a school or a school related event (Section 1(5)) and flag them as bullying.

 Our Concerns:

  The Catholic Church teaches that the parent is the primary educator of their child. SB 1166 negatively impacts the parent’s role as educator. This belief does not mean that the parent be the actual teacher, but that the parent has a significant voice in what their child is being taught. SB 1166 may label a parent, concerned about what the school is teaching on sexual identity or critical race theory, as a bully and not a welcomed member of the school community unless they change their viewpoint through the “restorative justice” process.

  The Catholic Church has specific teachings on human sexuality and life that conflict with current ideologies supported by many educators, politicians and organizations. As difficult as it is now for many people to express freely their viewpoints on these issues, SB 1166 will even make it more difficult. Catholics and those of other faiths, who have opposing views on these topics, may once again be targeted as bullies and urged to partake in “restorative justice”.

   The Catholic Church supports the right of free speech and association in a society. The expansion of what constitutes the “school environment”, to include activities not even related to school, could be used against students, parents, school board members and teachers to limit or curtail their free speech and association. Fear of being labeled a bully may make them think twice before participating in or speaking out at a church sponsored or non-church sponsored event.

   The Catholic Church, as part of its core social justice teachings, promotes the making of governmental and other decisions at the lowest level of government. It teaches that all people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Known as subsidiarity, requires that decisions are made by the people closest and most affected by the issues and concerns of the community. This teaching is severally violated by SB 1166. This legislation requires the state and local boards of education to develop standards that are in line with a national organization. An organization that our local decision makers have no relationship or knowledge of.

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