A cease and desist letter was sent to the Park City School District last week from an attorney and parents who want the district to stop an anti-bullying program currently being used by teachers at Trailside Elementary School.
The Welcoming Schools program is a training program to help teachers establish anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies in the school environment. Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea says it is part of the district’s Safe Schools Program as well as a state requirement.
“Our schools should develop, update, implement bullying, cyber-bullying, hazing, retaliation and abusive conduct policies at school and district level. So that training is really required, and that training is actually provided by the state.”
The cease and desist letter claims the Welcoming Schools Program “constitutes a comprehensive educational program on human sexuality, which cannot be implemented without there also being presented an opportunity for parental consent.” Gildea says the teacher training has nothing to do with sex education.
“What this really does though is, this helps our teachers when they see or hear something, is to be able to stop it in it’s tracks. Practicing that if they hear somebody using any derogatory term from a child to another child, what they can do to intervene appropriately. What question they can ask. How they can set things back to rights.”
Trailside administrators and educators decided to implement the program based on behaviors they observed on the playground. Sometimes comments can seem innocuous but Gildea says her objective is to create an environment throughout the district where children feel safe and included.
“And you know, that can be anything from kids teasing one another for those kids in the French dual immersion to those kids not in the French dual immersion. The kids were calling each other Frenchies and Bisquits. So, we’re trying to build commonalities rather than the differences.”
Gildea says the Trailside principal has heard from four parents who expressed concerns over the anti-bullying teacher education program. Board of Education President, Andrew Caplan says they don’t know how many people are involved in the cease and desist effort. But he says many have expressed support for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment in Park City’s schools.
“You know, most of the communication has been anonymous. In this case, they’ve chosen to remain anonymous, so we don’t really know who’s behind it or how many there are. We’ve been encouraged by the feedback we’ve gotten from the vast majority of parents at Trailside and in our district.”
Gildea says there is a fundamental miscommunication about the program that is circulating in the Parent Teacher Organization email distribution.
“Parents have twisted it into being about sex ed. And it really is not about sex education for adults or for kids. So, there is a misunderstanding about that for sure, that I think we should try to clear up. And then I think if people recognized it really is not about sex ed, it is simply about anti-bias, anti- bullying language, maybe people would feel more reassured.”
The school district legal counsel is involved. Gildea welcomes input and is willing to talk with anyone about their concerns.
Click on the images below to read the Cease and Desist letter.