EDUCATION & SCHOOLS

Park City School District pledges change after dozens of harassment reports in investigation

Mar 20, 2024, 11:30 PM | Updated: Mar 21, 2024, 6:37 am

PARK CITY — A U.S. Department of Education report detailed dozens of cases of reported instances of harassment within the Park City School District, along with an agreement as the school district pledges to change.

KSL TV originally reported on some of the alleged incidents of harassment two years ago, during the window of time covered by the investigation and report. Those incidents of alleged harassment included racist and antisemitic graffiti discovered by high school teacher Josh Goldberg in his classroom.

He said he initiated a class discussion on the hate symbols and racism.

“This isn’t the first time this has occurred as I found out now, because many students have come out, spoken to me what they have been experiencing,” Goldberg said, during a February 2022 interview.

At the time, the school district condemned the hate speech and opened an investigation.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights released a 30-page letter outlining its report. The office said it received seven harassment complaints against the Park City School District in a five-month span last year.

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

KSL previously spoke to a parent who said she filed a complaint after her daughter was experiencing antisemitic bullying at Ecker Hill Middle School.

As they began to investigate the reported incidents, the Office of Civil Rights said it found over 180 reported student-on-student harassment incidents at three different schools between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.

The schools listed include Park City High School, Treasure Mountain Junior High School, and Ecker Hill Middle School.

“The vast majority were based on race (77), national origin (27 involving antisemitism), or sex (at least 80), including slurs, threats, name-calling, jokes, gestures, symbols, and assaults,” the report states.

The Office of Civil Rights said it also found four documented reports of disability harassment and a possible hostile environment for at least a few students with disabilities.

During the investigation, the office said it interviewed nearly four dozen Park City School District employees, as well as several former employees, more than a dozen parents, several students, and other local community members.

In addition to the interviews, the office said it reviewed thousands of pages of school district records, and employee survey responses.

The report said that it found the district and the three schools disciplined some of the harassers and took actions to prevent recurrence of harassment generally, but that it also found that in specific incidents, “these responses were insufficient to end the harassment or prevent its recurrence, as evidenced by ongoing harassment based on race, national origin, and sex at the three schools.”

“In particular, the district repeatedly failed to investigate allegations of race-based and antisemitic harassment, to take effective steps to end hostile environments based on race and antisemitic harassment that the district confirmed, and to provide complainants information about the availability of supportive measures and how to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment,” states the Department of Education.

The Office of Civil Rights said it also found violations of the 2020 Title IX regulations, including that the Title IX Coordinator did not provide adequate information to sexual harassment complainants, and did not maintain all of the records of its response to knowledge of alleged student-to-student sexual harassment.

Along with the 30-page letter explaining the investigation findings, the office also released a 13-page resolution agreement signed by Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea.

The agreement outlines steps forward that include reviewing 2022-2023 harassment incidents, reviewing and revising harassment policies, developing a standard form for reporting harassment, implementing policies to track reports and responses, and providing training for employees, students and parents.

Back in 2022, Goldberg expressed his hope for similar changes now being promised by the district.

“We need a means and methodology to report incidents where kids feel safe,” he said. “To stop this systemic hatred, we need a systemic approach. Education is the key.”

The Park City School District Wednesday evening released an initial statement about the report letter and resolution agreement:

The Park City School District takes this very seriously and we are dedicated to making our schools safe and inclusive, ensuring that all students have a learning environment free of discrimination and harassment.

The school district also created a web page about the agreement, including a lengthy FAQ section.

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Park City School District pledges change after dozens of harassment reports in investigation