Her Story: Heather Bennett

On the 18th of March 2019, the world lost Heather Bennet – a mother, wife, advocate, and activist for all children in Salt Lake City. Her formal activism began in 2004 when she was elected to the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education following the closure of her children’s school, Lowell Elementary. Since 2004, Heather was continuously re-elected, and was set to serve on the board until December 31, 2020. Heather not only served as a board member, but she was also board president from 2015 until the beginning of 2019. She was known for her advocacy for all children in the Salt Lake City School District; she championed initiatives that supported academic achievement in all schools regardless of income level, racial majority, or past success. School community stakeholders, constituents, and colleagues knew her for her eloquent speech, provocative questions, and her ability to bring people together around a single issue.

In 2010 Heather lead an initiative that became board policy, which prohibited the discrimination against LGBTQ students, with the policy’s origins based on the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. This initiative also led to policy which provided benefits for domestic partners of all Salt Lake City School District employees. She also argued against school vouchers that would have funded private-school tuition and lowered public school funding. In a 2007 Salt Lake Tribune opinion essay she stated:

“Vouchers let Utah legislators of the hook. They do nothing to address underfunding of public school programs. (Means, 2019)”

Heather was also an advocate for early childhood education and early literacy programs which prepare students to become lifelong learners with a strong sense of self. These programs involve the entire family and provide high quality learning environments in order to prepare children for kindergarten and beyond.

In 2017, while Bennett was president of the Salt Lake City School District Board of Education, the Safe Schools Resolution was passed. The Safe Schools Resolution reassured families that their children would have equal access to education without the threat of interference from government agencies such as ICE. This resolution ensured that students’ learning environments would not be disrupted by said agencies. The importance of this policy may be difficult to understand, however after the 2016 Presidential Election immigration enforcement vastly increased their presence across the country.

Heather was deeply rooted in Utah, graduating from Skyline High School in 1976 and going on to complete her undergraduate studies in English Literature at the University of Utah. She leaves behind a legacy intertwined in education and advocacy for all children. Heather Bennett will be deeply missed by her family, colleagues, and constituents, however her activism and advocacy will allow others to carry on her legacy.

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