LOCAL NEWS

Park City School District confirms hate speech incidents, condemns actions in letter

Feb 16, 2022, 8:39 AM | Updated: 8:49 am
Park City High School. (Google Earth Pro)...
Park City High School. (Google Earth Pro)
(Google Earth Pro)

PARK CITY, Utah — Members of the Park City School Board confirmed and condemned racist words and hateful symbols, including a swastika, that have recently been displayed and drawn at two schools.

The board’s letter came just days after a Jewish teacher at Park City High School called for change after he said students found racist hate speech and the anti-Semitic symbol drawn on a desk in his classroom.

The Park City School District said they’ve opened an investigation since the discovery was made and they will “continue to investigate these incidents while also working to make this a learning experience for all that hate of any sort is not welcome in Park City.”

“The reaction from the community has rightfully and appropriately been one of shock, anger and sadness,” board members said. “We feel these emotions alongside each of you. In particular, to those who have been targeted by these hateful actions, we stand with you. How we respond together will dictate how we move forward as a community in combating hate and bigotry.”

Park City High teacher speaks out after racist messaging found in classroom

 

Park City High teacher Josh Goldberg told KSL TV’s Lauren Steinbrecher he couldn’t believe he’s having to focus on the kind of education he found himself taking on this week after students reported seeing a swastika drawn and the N-word written on a desk.

“I never expected this symbol of hatred to appear in the sacred space of my classroom. Never,” he said.

Goldberg is Jewish and said he’s been teaching about the persecution of the Jews in the Middle Ages over the last few weeks. He added his classroom is also the space where the Jewish Student Union Club meets.

“It took me some time to process,” Goldberg said. “This type of thing is very personally painful. Most of my family was murdered in the Holocaust.”

He said he believes the markings were recently drawn because he cleans the desks and occasionally turns them over.

The United Jewish Federation of Utah said it took a report of the incident and recommended anyone who is the subject of or finds hate speech to report it to the Anti-Defamation League.

The federation later issued a letter to Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea, saying these events “have created a grave concern in the Jewish community of Park City and Utah in general.”

“The purposeful use of Nazi symbolism to intimidate a Jewish teacher in the school must be addressed by prompt investigation and appropriate response which should include anti-hate and bias education and student engagement,” the federation said. The full letter can be viewed at the end of this story.

The Park City School Board said it is continuing to investigate the incidents, and board members thanked several community members who reached out since the incidents were reported.

“When our students use graffiti and words to spew hatred it must be a teaching experience dealt with by not only our schools but our entire community. In the past several days, many community members have reached out, some asking what they can do to help and how to support signaling their support recognizing that we are stronger together. Thank you.”

Board members said others have attacked and accused them of “being complicit in the propagation of hate,” which they said is “particularly harmful given that the majority of the school board is in fact Jewish.”

“Equity and inclusion are not just buzzwords for our school district. All decisions we make are intentionally evaluated and analyzed through a lens of equity, inclusion and belonging,” board members said. “The safety of our students and staff is a key tenet of education in our community. We will continue to investigate these incidents while also working to make this a learning experience for all that hate of any sort is not welcome in Park City. Most importantly, as we move beyond these incidents of hate in our community, we must work together and in good faith with one another to combat hate, and not undermine or work against one another.”

The board asked community members to reach out with ideas and support to help the community stay connected and working together.

“Let love fight hate and let’s do this together and rest assured that educating against hatred will always be a priority in Park City schools,” board members said.

You can read the board’s entire letter here.

Full letter from the United Jewish Federation of Utah:

Dear Superintendent Gildea,

Recent events in Park City High School have created a grave concern in the Jewish community of Park City and Utah in general. The purposeful use of Nazi symbolism to intimidate a Jewish teacher in the school must be addressed by prompt investigation and appropriate response which should include anti-hate and bias education and student engagement.

Even though the media has reported on this event and the impacted teacher has spoken to the Park City Board of Education, we request to hear more on what actions your office will take in response to this event. Our community is concerned that we are seeing once again indifference and unacceptable tolerance for antisemitic hate. We do not believe this is a problem limited to the Jewish citizens of Park City. This is a concern for all parents and students in the Park City School system. Antisemitic hate always accompanies a lack of tolerance and hate towards Latino, African American, LGBTQ, and other minority communities.

In the words of the author Eli Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”. We request clear and transparent action and a policy statement about how similar events will be dealt with so that indifference to such acts becomes a thing of the past. The United Jewish Federation of Utah stands ready with our “Partners Against Hate” and the Anti-Defamation League to provide resources and programs to educate against all forms of hate and bigotry in our schools.

Alex Shapiro, United Jewish Federation of Utah executive director

Dr. Jay Jacobson, United Jewish Federation of Utah Antisemitism Task Force chair

Ron Zamir, United Jewish Federation of Utah VP of community relations

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Park City School District confirms hate speech incidents, condemns actions in letter