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Park City School District reaches agreement with US Civil Rights Office to resolve investigation

Park City School District.
Kristine Weller
Park City School District.

The Park City School District has signed a joint resolution with the federal government to resolve its investigation of racist bullying in Park City schools.

In the spring of 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into seven reported incidents of student-to-student harassment and discrimination in Park City School District secondary schools. The incidents occurred over two years - between 2021 and 2023. According to the school district, most of the complaints were verbal and based on race, sex, disability and national origin including antisemitism.

District spokesperson Heidi Matthews said the OCR’s investigation revealed additional instances of discrimination and harassment. Some she said weren’t reported at all while others were incorrectly reported.

“Those complaints, which included the specific instances on the student-to-student discrimination and harassment that was found to be credible, that we have an unacceptable number of incidents as happening,” Matthews said.

The district signed a joint resolution this week with the Office for Civil Rights. The agreement is meant to ensure district policies, procedures and practices align with federal anti-discrimination laws like Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs. The agreement also mandates policies and procedures to be implemented and enforced across all district schools and requires the district to appoint a Title IX coordinator.

Matthews said the main requirements of the resolution include remedies for individual students who were harassed or discriminated against and will improve how the district reports any future cases.

“Kind of closing the loops with all involved, including our parents and staff members who have made claims, and just making sure we have strengthened reporting so that we can be much more unified in the way that we address concerns of racism and harassment,” she said.

In a letter to families with students in the school district, Superintendent Jill Gildea detailed steps the district is taking to strengthen its procedures, training and investigation practices.

The steps are:

  1. Comprehensively review reported harassment from the 2022-2023 school year to reach a resolution.
  2. The Park City School District Board of Education and other district leaders will review, revise and fortify policies and procedures related to harassment and discrimination. More specifically, the district aims to refine the language of the policies and create an updated framework detailing consequences for violations and reinforcing a zero-tolerance for harassment.
  3. Develop and implement training programs for all staff. There will be mandatory training for incoming staff and an annual refresher training for all staff. Another level of training will be implemented for investigators.
  4. Improve recordkeeping and reporting with new standardized forms and policies.  A new harassment reporting form will be available online.
  5. Maintain open lines of communication with its “school community” through its website landing page. The district plans to include regular updates on progress and allow the community to provide feedback. An annual survey will be released for families to share concerns. Those with feedback can email FACE@pcschools.us.

In the letter, Gildea wrote the district acknowledges the gaps found during the investigation and is “dedicated to not just bridging but completely closing these divides” with family support and collaboration.
The district will hold a mandatory training in August to help staff understand civil rights laws and recognize and report all discrimination and harassment. The Office for Civil Rights will monitor the district’s progress through June 2026, when the district expects it will have implemented the changes and will be in compliance.