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Park City School District shares progress in resolving federal concerns

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

The Park City School District has released an update on steps it’s taking to resolve concerns after a federal investigation found dozens of incidents of harassment in the district.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated multiple harassment complaints in the Park City School District and found more than 180 reported incidents of student-to-student harassment from 2021 to 2023. It notified the district of its findings on March 20 and the district subsequently signed a resolution agreement to resolve violations and compliance concerns.

The district released an update on its progress in early April as Superintendent Jill Gildea apologized on behalf of the district.

“As superintendent, I apologize for any instance where our district fell short of providing a nurturing and safe environment," she said. "Every student deserves to achieve their full potential in a supportive setting.”

The district says it is reviewing reported incidents from the 2022-23 school year to ensure affected students received appropriate support. The district has also worked on revising policies and procedures related to harassment. It also says it anticipates sharing monthly updates on revisions along with opportunities for public comment.

In response to federal concern that there was no standard procedure for reporting harassment or record keeping, the district has created both reporting and investigation forms. The forms are available in English and Spanish and are being used throughout the district for new harassment incidents. The federal investigation also found the district’s Title IX Coordinator, who deals with gender equity in schools, was not notified of reported Title IX incidents including sexual harassment. The district now has a “Title IX compliance flow chart” to clarify procedural steps. District administrators will get training on these documents this month.

To ensure the public is aware of nondiscrimination policies, the district has posted the information on its website. The district plans to update its nondiscrimination policies and distribute them to all district staff and families in the summer of 2024.

However, Gildea said during the district’s board meeting that the district is committed to more than just meeting the agreement's requirements. District staff want to create a welcoming culture at schools.

“It is aiming to improve our school’s atmosphere, making sure it’s welcoming to all," Gildea said. "It does also includes implementing disciplinary actions, restorative practices, and focusing on something called restorative justice.”

She said as part of restorative justice, the district will seek to repair harm, rebuild relationships and address root causes of behavior through education and accountability.

Gildea then outlined some resources to help students and staff know how to respond to harassment. The model is to interrupt, ask, educate and echo. That means those who hear biased remarks should interrupt and speak up in the moment. They should also ask why the statement was made. The individual can then educate others by explaining why a term, phrase or action is offensive. Finally, students and staff should echo and repeat that harassing remarks are inappropriate.

The district plans to continue sharing updates as it works to resolve harassment compliance concerns.