Community Panel Addresses Welcoming Schools Training At Elementary In Park City
PARK CITY, Utah — A community panel Tuesday aimed to answer questions and allow people to air concerns over an anti-bullying training program for teachers that was implemented at Trailside Elementary.
The program has drawn sharp criticism and threats of litigation from opponents, who question the agenda behind the Welcoming Schools program and have even reportedly leveled claims that the training amounts to “LGBTQ indoctrination.”
Lara Valdes-Postula, a mother who said she supports the training, helped to organize Tuesday’s panel in hopes of “dispelling myths.”
“All teachers should have access to the tools on how to speak to kids about their differences,” Valdes-Postula said.
The 1½-hour meeting held at the Park City Visitor Information Center Tuesday afternoon allowed attendees to ask questions as well as register concerns.
Jimmy May said he was worried about the program’s origins with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
“They lack credibility in a lot of circles,” May said. “I think we need a better program — a program by group we can all back.”
May said LGBTQ is emphasized on the Welcoming Schools page and nothing is said about other groups who could fall victim to bullying.
Valdes-Postula said “hateful emails” from opponents in part motivated her to set up the panel.
“Welcoming Schools is an anti-bullying program that is intended to instruct teachers and educators on how to talk to children about their questions regarding other children’s differences,” Valdes-Postula said. “It’s really about addressing all kids’ differences — like a child with ADHD or a child with autism or a girl that might be a little bit larger than some of the other kids. We have a tremendous bullying problem — not just in our community, all around the nation, all around the world.”
Park City School District administrators were not present at the panel.
A spokesperson noted pending litigation and referred back to a previous statement posted to the district’s website.
“So far this year, teachers have received 3 hours of professional development training using the Welcoming Schools program,” the statement read, in part. “That training was delivered by Holly Bell, Equity and Advocacy Specialist for the Utah State Board of Education. The professional development module was entitled ‘Embracing Family Diversity’ and the goal is to equip educators with the tools to be able to answer questions from students and families about the importance of welcoming all families in our diverse school community.”
Park City School District Board President Andrew Caplan, who was in attendance, told the group the goal is to have all children succeed while being accepted for who they are.
“We believe that we acted in the best interest of the students and that we acted in according to our own policies at the district as well as state law,” Caplan said.
Critics have also recently raised concerns about a statement from Caplan, who told the Park Record on Oct. 18, “Oftentimes people who are frightened by other people’s interests act out anonymously. It’s no different than Klansmen wearing hoods, frankly.”
Caplan told KSL matters like these are usually addressed in Park City through an open and public dialogue, and he took issue with an anonymous letter that was circulated via email throughout the Trailside community.
“We always welcome individuals to come forward and talk to us about disagreements they have with policies or things that go on in the school,” Caplan said. “I was just disappointed in the fact that the way it was handled was anonymously, and I felt that hiding behind an anonymous letter was akin to hiding behind a mask.”
Valdes-Postula said she believed the meeting was successful, since it brought both sides to the table to discuss the issue in person.
“We just wanted to have a mature, respectful, open dialogue, and I do think that finally happened tonight,” she said.
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