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Park City School District sued by former employee alleging retaliation after sexual harassment report

Ben Lasseter

A former Park City teacher alleges the district retaliated against her after she reported sexual harassment in her 5th grade class.

A former Parley’s Park Elementary School 5th grade teacher is suing the Park City School District for an unspecified amount of money, including lost wages and punitive damages, alleging the district retaliated after she reported sexual harassment.

According to a lawsuit filed last week in 3rd District Court, Kathryn Moore was demoted and then lost her job as a teacher after she reported the alleged incidents of student harassment in her 5th grade class. The suit alleges school officials took further steps against Moore that made it hard for her to be hired elsewhere.

Park City Superintendent Jill Gildea said Monday the district had not received formal notice of the suit. She said school districts do not comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.

A spokesperson for the Utah Attorney General’s Office confirmed the office expects to handle the case but declined further comment.

According to the suit, five girls in Moore’s class told her in December 2020 that one of the boys in the class was touching them inappropriately and had done so multiple times before.

Moore reported the incident to then-principal Daren Houck, the suit says.

Houck declined to discuss the allegations, saying confidentiality laws prevented him from speaking about any employee or student matter.

“It’s important to protect the dignity of all involved and focus on providing the best education possible for our students," Houck wrote in a message to KPCW.

Houck is no longer employed by the district. He said his decision to leave was not related to this incident and that he did so to pursue a better professional opportunity.

Katie Panzer, Moore’s attorney, said Moore was made a scapegoat after reporting the alleged harassment.

“The principal decided the way to handle this was to segregate the classroom based on gender, girls on one side, boys on the other, not allowed to play or talk to each other during recess,” Panzer said. “And, obviously, that, I think, drew a lot of complaints from parents. And so even though it was the principal's decision, it seems like she was made the fall guy.”

According to the suit, Moore was sent to work at another school about six weeks after the classroom was segregated by gender. In April, the district told Moore her one-year contract would not be renewed.

According to the suit, the district then issued what’s called a non-renewal letter even though Moore’s employment situation did not require one.

“A lot of districts either have a written or unwritten policy, they won't hire a teacher if they get a non-renewal letter,” Panzer said. “And sometimes it's for two or three years. If they go teach somewhere else, then a district will hire them again after a couple years. So it was really damaging to her ability to get a job elsewhere.”

Moore, who now teaches at a private school, is seeking damages including compensation for lost wages and retirement benefits. She also asked the court to order her reinstatement as a teacher in the Park City School District.

Panzer said she has been negotiating with the district since June and that the district offered to remove the non-renewal letter in return for Moore dropping her claims, which Moore did not agree to do.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.