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Discrimination in Park City Schools

What if the federal government found that a black student had been discriminated against by the Park City School District. Some days he wasn’t allowed to go to school. The school didn’t prevent other students from beating up the black student, because of his race. The black student wasn’t allowed to go on field trips.

What would the people of Park City do about it? What would we demand?

What if the federal government found that girls were discriminated against by the Park City School District. Girls weren’t allowed to take the same classes as boys. The district didn’t let girls play sports because it was too expensive. Girls had a dress code but boys could wear whatever they wanted to wear.

What would the people of Park City do about it? What would we demand?

What if the federal government found that children with disabilities were discriminated against by the Park City School District? The district didn’t provide required medical care. The district wouldn’t allow the children to come on field trips.The district required the parents of the children to come to school to help the child, instead of providing resources as required by law.

What would the people of Park City do about it? What would we demand?

I’ll tell you what we should demand. Accountability. I don’t mean the type of accountability where someone says “I’m sorry” and then goes on with their business. I mean the type of accountability where people are relieved of their duties because we do not trust them to make decisions. We do not trust them with our children.

Of the above three what-ifs, the third has happened recently at Park City Schools. You may have read Bubba Brown’s excellent article in the Park Record entitled Investigation: Park City School District discriminated against diabetic student. This is about how the school district discriminated against a kindergarten student with diabetes. Better yet, hopefully soon we can release the findings from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. It’s damning. Here are the “lowlights”:

  • The district did not develop a plan for caring for the child with the required knowledgeable persons as required by law.
  • The district did not maintain records regarding the creation of the care plan (known as a 504 plan) as required by law.
  • Although the district was required by law to have a nurse onsite all day to provide insulin to the student, they didn’t. Therefore, the parents were called 12-16 times during the fall semester to come to school to provide insulin to the child.
  • The school’s nurse was not scheduled to work at school for the first 1.5 hours of each day, or on Fridays during the fall semester. Without a nurse, there is no one who can legally provide insulin to the student.
  • While the district expanded the nurses hours after the OCR investigation began, in at least one case during the second semester the school district did not schedule a substitute nurse when the regular nurse was gone.
  • The district’s plan called for a backup staff person to receive training on helping the student. The federal government found that this person was unaware of the plan contents and was unfamiliar with the needs of the student.
  • In order for the student to attend field trips, the district required that the parent attend the field trips. No other parents were required to come in order for their children to attend field trips.
  • The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) told the district that they are responsible for ensuring students legal requirements are met during field trips (i.e. a parent doesn’t have to go and the district is required to provide support). According to the OCR, the Park City School District Associate Superintendent said he would just cancel all field trips. The OCR warned the district that this could be perceived as a retaliatory action against the parents and student, which is illegal.
  • The district lied to parents about why a field trip to Nuzzles and Company was cancelled. The district stated that they lied in order to protect the identity of the diabetic child, who, because the district didn’t find a nurse to go on the field trip, may be blamed for canceling the field trip?

In the past week, the school district has taken to many mediums to answer these charges. They would have you believe that this is just an issue that has been overblown by an overzealous parent who could have worked with the school district. Nothing could be further from the truth. I imagine the district saying, “we wouldn’t have had to discriminate against your child, if you just would have worked with us.” All that aside, facts are facts. The bullet points above are not the mad ravings of a Park Rag blogger or a helicopter mom. They are findings by the US Department of Education. They conclude that the Park City School District has committed many acts of discrimination against this student.

It’s pretty clear. It’s also true that the Park City School District, after being investigated and found guilty by the Department of Education, has made changes. As of this minute, they appear to be in compliance for this student. However, you shouldn’t dismiss this story just because the district eventually fell into line (and hopefully continues). A parent brought up issues with school district personnel. Not enough was done, so a complaint was filed with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (DOE OCR) by a parent. Nothing changed. The DOE OCR started asking questions. Some things, but not a lot, changed. The DOE OCR found civil right violations by the school district. The district now has a nurse available during the entire school day (golf clap….) to help ensure the child comes home alive at the end of the day. “Best school district in the world.” Will the district stay in compliance this summer? Will they be prepared next fall? What happens during the next round of budget cutbacks?

Perhaps the more important question from the community is whether this is an isolated incident. I’ve heard it isn’t, and I expect we will be hearing much more about that over the coming months.

The reality is that the school district has been found guilty by the federal government of violating the law. There must be accountability for that. Discriminating against the disabled has been AGAINST THE LAW since 1990 (and should have been before that). So, this isn’t something new.

The truth is that very few people trust the school district. You hear this in public meetings. You hear this at the coffee shop. You hear this from teachers. This is just one more misstep by the school district.

The school district spends a lot of time talking about how it is trying to be more transparent. Perhaps they should take a step back and just try and figure out how to follow the law first.

Ok, I’d actually prefer both.

I have faith that they’ll eventually get it right. I just hope it’s before my 2 year old graduates from Park City High in 2034.

Note: I reached out to the school district for a meeting and was supposed to meet with Superintendent Dr Ember Conley today to understand the district’s side of this issue. Unfortunately Dr Conley got pulled into a meeting and wasn’t able to meet. I was offered a meeting at that time with the Associate Superintendent for 5 minutes. I decided to ask for another meeting with Dr Conley at a later time. I’ll post the district’s side of this issue once I get it.

 

Comments

3 Comments

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John McNulty

Josh,
This is an excellent article. Your analogies are spot on. Facts are difficult things, and those directly involved in this decision loop should rightfully be dismissed or resign straight away. Not disciplined.. dismissed.
I appreciate also your approach to accountability. Far too many times issues have been glossed over in “oops, sorry” form. Only time now will tell if the leadership takes swift and decisive action. There can be absolutely no place for misdirection or lies.

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Anonymous

There are moreven. They will be coming to light soon. It is shameful.

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Meg Leaf

If recent events dictate the future, there will be no true accountability taken, no change in PCSD leadership, no turnaround of poor decisions made. The Park City community and teachers have spoken loud and clear about keeping Reading/ESL staff in place. Yet here we are now at the end of the 2015-2016 school year with some essential staff having lost their positions anyway, regardless of that overwhelming opposition. Hispanic families have no idea that their support system will be reduced significantly beginning next year, conflicting with the district message that we care about our Hispanic community. And reading programs have been dismantled. We spoke loud and clear on the ‘cover-your-ass,’ late-night warning about May 3rd. We spoke out about the three pedophiles it took to start using existing system filters. We are speaking out again about discrimination. Our PCSD leadership (superintendent and Board) is bound in an unhealthy marriage without the proper checks and balances in place to implement the actions needed to clean up. So, asking what Park City would do if the school district discriminated against a student and retaliated against a nurse is moot. The Park City community and its teachers have absolutely no say, no power, and receive no respect. Don’t think for one minute any of them would consider resigning. It’s not in their character, save Phil Kaplan. Phil is trying to do good things and move us in proper directions, but he is outnumbered. Until November. I grow more impatient for November to come each day when I ponder our school district and its dysfunction. Thank goodness for great teachers.


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