The debate is interesting when it comes to “book banning” in Park City Schools. As many people are aware, the Utah Legislature requires schools to adopt a content policy for library materials that are sensitive. This has led to discussions about what is appropriate in our school libraries.
Two local parents were on KPCW yesterday, talking about why they are concerned about the type of content in Park City schools’ libraries. They are being labeled as “book banners” by many. They are called “Karens” by others. However, in many ways, they opened my mind yesterday as I listened to some of their arguments.
With that in mind, I looked at some of the books they are concerned with. Let’s just say it was eye-opening. Before this issue was raised in Park City, I would have considered myself a person who would have argued against removing any books from PCSD school libraries. However, this debate has changed that view a bit.
With that in mind, here is the most interesting book I found. It is called Fun Home and is allegedly at the Treasure Mountain’s Library (so, that means 13-year-olds and above). It’s a graphic novel with a compelling story. It is about a young woman who is gay and her personal growth. It is about a father who is gay and kills himself. It’s by all accounts an interesting book. However, it is a graphic novel.
That is just one of many “graphic” pages in the book. Now, should that book be banned? Of course not. Is there anything wrong with what it depicts? No. It sounds like a modern coming-of-age story with complex concepts. Should it be in the Treasure Mountain Junior High library? Probably not.
I think if you believe this should be at TMJH, you also have to be OK with other things. If a student draws this scene in class, they shouldn’t get punished. If they submit this in an art exhibition at school, it should be on the walls of the school. If a student wants to wear this image on a t-shirt at school, they should be allowed. If there are similar graphic novels that depict oral sex or anal sex between young adults, those need to be allowed too.
Perhaps I am a prude. If I had grown up in Europe instead of Kansas, would I think differently? I’m not sure. Should this book be banned? No, it should be available at the Park City and Kimball Junction Libraries. I also get that removing books from school libraries is a slippery slope. Where does it stop?
Overall, I don’t have the answer. I think we as a community need to find a balance. As Larry Flynt once said, “In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that individual communities should set obscenity standards. Whenever a case is tried, it will be based on a community standard for that particular place.” I believe we, as a community, need to figure this out. But it’s a tough job.
However, it’s also important for everyone to know we aren’t debating whether The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be in our school’s libraries. It’s far more complicated than that.
You’re probably against banning books in Park City Schools, but you should listen to this KPCW interview
You are probably against banning books in our schools. If you are like me, you like to think of yourself as as an enlightened person who believes our children should have even more enlightening experiences in school. Those experiences will push our students beyond areas where they are comfortable to become well-rounded adults.
Yet, this morning parents Kathy Pratchett and Diane Livingston were interviewed by KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher. Ms. Pratchett and Diane Livingston were interviewed about parents’ choice over what their children are required to read in Park City Schools. They appear to have an opposite view. They posit the question, “How can teachers ask students to read pornography in our schools?”. They made great arguments. Ms. Pratchett and Ms. Livingston argued:
- That some Park City School District teachers are choosing books that are pornographic in nature.
- That the term ‘pornographic’ is specifically defined by Utah law and PCSD is using pornographic material. The state of Utah has defined pornography as showing or writing about masturbation, sex, or touching.
- That PCSD’s own technology filters prevent accessing information about some of the books prescribed by teachers because the technology filters deem the books as pornographic.
- Students/Parents aren’t always presented with alternative books before their students can access the material.
It’s a tough question. Years ago, we argued over censoring books like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. For 30 years, it was the most censored book in America due to its “foul language,” “filthiness,” and sexual content. Yet, twenty years later, is anyone really worried it uses the word “goddamn”? As I look at the top five books censored today, they are:
- Gender Queer
- Lawn Boy
- All Boys Aren’t Blue
- Out of Darkness
- The Hate you Give
I can see how some people would be concerned if their child brought home these books (based on the title). Just like I could see how some people would be concerned when their 1960 child brought home Catcher in the Rye. We are a product of our time and how we want to raise our children.
Just because the school district is fine with books about masturbation, that doesn’t mean a parent is. If you don’t quite get the nuance, I will encourage you to watch the movie “The People Versus Larry Flynt.” Could a teacher decide Hustler is art?
However, like most things in Utah, in reality, it comes down to the fact you live in Utah. Don’t want your Park City property taxes sent to other Utah schools? Don’t live here (or change the law). Want wine shipped to your house? Don’t live here (or change the law). Don’t like the definition of pornography? Don’t live here (or change the law).
Utah has laws, and they aren’t always the ones we want.
Back to reality. The Park City School District’s primary problem is that they haven’t provided a process in which parents can effectively and easily opt out for their children. If parents could understand the curriculum for the year, down to the book, and then have a “clean” alternative, that would meet the need of most parents.
I believe that most parents who are concerned about their children reading pornographic material in our schools would be OK if there was a proper process in place to let the parent opt-out for their family. If some other parent’s kid wanted their child to read about sex, masturbation, etc. they are OK with that for the other kid.
That said, there isn’t going to be some massive book-banning event on Main Street. That’s not what this is about.
What it should be about is providing a simple process for parents to opt out — even if you and I would probably never do that. That will enable us as a community to wade the fine line between porn, art, Utah law, and Park City.
I live in Jeremy Ranch and the Jeremy and Pinebrook roundabouts are often the bane of my existence. When we did Park City Follies, we had a whole video about the roundabouts with lots of a four-letter word mixed in.
With that in mind, I came upon the most comprehensive discussion of roundabouts that I have ever read. It was amazing. I learned such facts as:
- The Jeremy and Pinebrook “roundabouts” are actually called rotaries, due to their size.
- One-quarter of the 35,000 traffic death per year in the US happen at intersections.
- 0.1 percent of all crashes at roundabouts end in death. 04 percent of crashes at intersections lead to death.
- Elon Musk says Tesla’s can’t self drive roundabouts yet.
- It costs at least a couple of million dollars per intersection to convert it to a single lane, small, roundabout.
If you have the time, and care about roundabouts, this Freakonomics article is worth the time. In some ways they make a lot of sense.
The most important person in the Park City School District is your kid’s teacher. The second most important person is Todd Hauber. Yesterday we learned Todd was leaving PCSD and headed to the Granite School District in mid October.
You may not be familiar with Todd, but he has been the Business Administrator for the Park City School District for a decade. You may think of PCSD as an educational environment, but as it is with most things in Utah, there is a legislative component that extends into how a business can run. Todd manages all of that for the Park City School District. Who figured out the bonds for our school expansion? Todd. Who had the foresight to ensure that our lease revenue bonds were purchased before the recent interest rate hikes? Todd. That saved us a ton of money. Who knows about every legislative change each year? Todd.
When I was running for School Board, Todd sat down with me for about 20 minutes after a school board meeting to explain a financial issue. He didn’t have to. He wanted to. He wanted to educate. He was impressive.
I have witnessed that level of knowledge and professionalism since I started following the school district when Ember Conley was Superintendent. He has always known more than most about our schools. He knows how it all works. Unfortunately that knowledge will soon be gone.
I emailed School Board member Andrew Caplan and expressed that we should do everything possible to keep Todd Hauber. He replied that they had tried but the opportunity was too great for Mr. Hauber to pass up. That’s too bad for us. I guess, our loss, is Salt Lake’s gain.
If this was baseball, we just lost our starting shortstop. We’ll need to work very hard and get pretty lucky to find someone in his ballpark.
Thanks for the decade of work Todd. We’ll miss you.
Last spring, there was a worry from teachers and school administrators about class sizes in our elementary schools. I wanted to check in and see how class sizes are turning out this year.
I often point out the negatives of the district; however, if they solved this potential issue, they should get the praise. So, if you are inclined, can you let me know in the comments or on Facebook what your elementary school child’s class size is and whether it’s a DLI class (Non-DLI classes were the most at-risk because DLI class sizes are limited by state law).
Thanks for the help!
Wow. A lot of bad things seem to happen to the Park City School District.
It started with a magic rock that somehow broke the Superintendent’s kitchen window but didn’t break the window’s screen. This act of dark magic forced school board members, against their will, to chastise the community for its hatefulness.
Then some of our best teachers were not able to understand why it was a terrible idea for their kids to go to the same school where their parents taught. This caused some of them to leave and others to lose trust. More bad luck.
Then PCSD teachers who live out of the district became so mentally challenged that they couldn’t comprehend why there may be issues enrolling their kids in Park City schools.
Then the district got blindsided by the Covid mask mandates at Parley’s and wasn’t even able to communicate properly due to the stress. It made the district feel even more mistreated when the Health Department had to teach people at Parley’s Park Elementary how to wear masks.
Then KPCW, the local NPR station, was mean to the school district with the questions it asked and what it reported. The only mature recourse the school district had was to stop talking to the radio station.
Then some employees made the Park City School District look really bad by not reporting allegations of child rape and abuse. I’m sure the district felt even more like a victim when the police and sheriff had to teach their employees how to tell the appropriate people if a kid says their penis was touched by a school employee.
After that, Summit County got really angry with the district and wouldn’t allow them to build whatever they wanted without permits. That has to be a real distraction for the people trying to do God’s work. Then, Summit County had the gall to offer Park City Schools a temporary permit to make Jeremy Ranch safe for opening. What is the County trying to do? Are they trying to make the school district feel bad? There’s no way the school district should even speak to Summit County after that. See KPCW.
Most recently, we found out on Saturday that the teachers’ daycare is being shut down. Only 19 teachers used the daycare, so it probably won’t matter. We have no communication from Park City Schools on this, but who can blame the district? They are dealing with a lot of stuff right now. So, we have to assume that it is either that construction at the high school made it hard to provide, lack of funding caused it to shut down, or perhaps the devil made the daycare close. I’m sure the district couldn’t have seen this coming and had absolutely no warning. If they knew, they wouldn’t wait to announce this until three days before the school year starts. I mean, it could have impacted whether those 19 teachers looked for work elsewhere, but that wouldn’t happen at Park City Schools — not even in a teacher shortage.
There is only one conclusion to draw. The Park City Schol District is damned. It is cursed. The deck is stacked against it. I can come to no other conclusion. Naysayers might say that you reap the crop you sow, but that is totally unfair. Park City School District is doing God’s work. For proof, see what I said above.
If I were advising the top levels of the Park City School District, I would say one thing. GET OUT. This is a cursed ship. If you are Dr. Gildea, you have no control over these things. So, the best bet is to find a greener pasture.
I would say a similar thing to the school board. They get paid almost nothing and get nothing but harassment. They don’t need this. Park City is second only to Aspen with the number of board positions a resident can apply for. There are better alternatives. Let other fools try to make this school district successful.
If you are a parent, you probably don’t want to sell your house in this market. So, you’ll have to hope that you can deal with Park City High School being the 21st-ranked public high school in Utah. Batten the hatches, though, because the rankings seem to be going down — due to the curse, of course.
The Park City’s school district seems to be damned. We are like the Monkey’s Paw. We have all the wishes in the world, but each one of them goes bad.
Here’s hoping that this year is the year we beat the curse — but don’t count on it. Rumor has it that the District Office is built on a Native American burial ground.
We learned nothing.
OK, that’s not quite true.
For those who haven’t been following the story, kids/parents reported child abuse in Park City Schools. Multiple people from the school district allegedly didn’t report child abuse to the proper authorities. The County Attorney filed a lawsuit against the school district. The County Attorney then settled with the school district under the idea that no one could prove rape or touching of a 4-year-old’s penis, so it wasn’t a big deal. The settlement also noted that no one at the district TOLD someone to cover it up, so I guess it wasn’t a conspiracy.
I think that’s where we are.
Yet, we still seem to have cases of alleged child abuse that weren’t reported by school personnel, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The County Attorney will allegedly monitor the district for two years — so I guess we have that.
What we have learned is that the penalty for not reporting child abuse is … nothing.
Yet, you play the game you have to play. You are dealt the hand you are dealt. Here are my takeaways:
- If you depend on Park City schools to do anything regarding child abuse, you are misguided.
- If you depend on the Summit County Attorney to do anything regarding child abuse in schools, you are misguided.
- If your child is bullied, raped, touched, etc., report it to the Summit County Sheriff’s Department or Park City Police. You can’t rely on the Park City School District. If you don’t trust Summit County because you don’t trust the County Attorney, report it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Child Help (https://childhelphotline.org).
- Don’t trust the schools to tell you that your child was bullied, raped, or touched. Talk with your children about the issue. You likely won’t find out any other way.
- If bad things have happened to your child, civil lawsuits appear to be your primary option. Tens of millions of dollars of lawsuits should be able to elicit change. Of course, that doesn’t help your child that was raped.
So, that is where we are. The truth doesn’t only hurt; it sucks.
Welcome to Park City.
The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting on a lawsuit brought against the Park City School District by the parents of a current second grader. The parents allege that when their child was in Kindergarten, he went into the principal’s office, was instructed to pull down his pants, and the principal touched his penis. According to the allegation, when the parents reported this to four people at the school, none of them reported this to authorities. This is one of the cases of unreported child abuse cases being investigated by the Summit County Attorney, Margret Olson.
Yet it gets worse; the lawsuit alleges that the boy has dyslexia and dysgraphia, and after the parents reported the issue, his special education services were taken away. It further alleges that due to this, the child now has difficulty spelling his name and writing ABCs.
Yet it gets worse; the lawsuit alleges that due to their child’s speech difficulties, he now gets bullied. According to the court filing, “He was punched so hard he lost sight for four days, ending up in Primary Children’s Hospital. He was kicked, choked, hit on the head, pinned to the ground, and threatened with a knife.”
Yet it gets worse; the parents allege that the school never told them about the bullying and that they found out about it from their son. The parents also allege that when they brought it up to school administrators, they were brushed off.
Yet it gets worse; according to the lawsuit, the school’s answer to these issues was that the child should transfer to a different school.
Yet it gets worse; no one from the school district will comment.
I would encourage you to read the entire article by Courtney Tanner. It’s the most damning thing I have read about Park City schools.
Here are some of my thoughts on this matter:
- I feel for this family (and the others too), who suffer through these events. Their only recourse to affect change is to sue the Park City School District, Dr. Gildea, the School Board, the Principal, and staff members. It shouldn’t have to be like that.
- Why is no one at the school district on administrative leave until these allegations are sorted out?
- Can the County Attorney really settle with the school district on unreported child abuse cases after the Salt Lake Tribune article?
- The school district’s lack of comment on this is unbelievable. Here is the problem now. The article states that the allegation about touching the boy’s penis was made against a male principal who is still listed as head of their school. That’s two people — and not hard to figure out. If the allegations are false, the school should be talking about this to support their two principals. If the allegations are true, the school should be talking about this to support the innocent man. However, as the public, we are now left gossiping, wondering, hoping, and making up our own narratives. It’s not fair to at least one of these principals.
- Speaking of that, should you worry about sending your kid to school next year? Should I?
- Outside of the child abuse, the lesson that the school district allegedly seems to be teaching us is, don’t speak up, or you’ll be sorry. Sounds more like the Godfather than Head of the Class.
- If you have a special needs child, are YOU now worried whether something will happen and your child’s services will be removed? This allegation seems to be a recurring pattern in our district.
- How many millions of dollars are we as taxpayers going to have to pay for this mess?
- I hope this child gets the help he needs to get back on track.
This whole thing makes me sick. I’ve followed Park City Schools for a long time. There have been issues in the past. They didn’t approach the 2015 bond correctly. They retaliated against a nurse related to her standing up for the parents of type 1 diabetes children. They don’t communicate at all. They appear to have deserted our underserved kids. There is a bullying problem.
However, this is a new low. If even half of these allegations are true, we need to clean house at the top of our district.
Since writing this article, I read the court filing the Tribune’s article is based on. I have been contacted by parents worried about the allegations of sexual abuse cited in the Tribune article. Parents should know that this lawsuit isn’t actually about those charges. It sounds like either they have been investigated or are being investigated. It’s far more about bullying that has allegedly been allowed to get out of control. It’s about allegedly not protecting students. It’s about failure to report child abuse. It’s about alleged retaliation. It’s about allegedly denying civil rights. The lawsuit is about not helping a child in need.
That said, the incidents the lawsuit alleges are horrific, whether a child’s penis was touched or not.
Note: I am not going to publish the court documents, out of respect for the privacy of those involved. They are publicly available if you wish to find them.
The Winner Takes it All: Congratulations to Mandy and Meredith on the Park City School Board election
The final votes for the school board election were tallied, and I lost.
I lost by 22 votes. I always say it, and I often repeat it — the most important elections are local. It’s what impacts us every day, and it’s something we actually have a say in. Thank you to everyone who voted — no matter how you voted. So now it is up to Mandy (Pomeroy) or Meredith (Reed) to find the change we need in our school district.
If you have kids in the district, you may wonder about unreported child abuse and how that impacts your children. If you don’t have kids but pay taxes, you may wonder why the school district didn’t allow tax levies to drop off as they should have — thus increasing your taxes. Either way, you may wonder about cost overruns that seem to be happening.
You may also wonder about whether all decisions of the school board are discussed openly. You may watch meetings and wonder how all school board members came to a consensus without talking about it in an open meeting — which, of course, doesn’t seem right (or legal).
You may ask if our school Superintendent, with only 4,600 students and 7 schools, should be compensated at nearly half a million dollars per year and gets a house and gets a car.
If you REALLY care, you may ask why our caucasian students have such a good outcome, but less than 25% of our underserved students are proficient in math and English.
There are so many questions for our school district.
As I tell my kids, who try to make me feel better about my loss, “I’ve been complaining for a decade. At least I tried to do something.” Now, Meredith and Mandy have a greater responsibility. They have to actually fix it. Execution is always harder than ideas. God Speed.
There are no good or bad ideas. There is only execution.
If you are reading this, you likely care about what happens with Park City Schools, too. I would encourage you to delve deep into the issues over the next few months. The next election is huge. Two seats are up for election and the choices we make will influence the future direction of the school district.
Incumbents include Mandy Pomeroy and Erin Grady. Challengers include Meredith Reed and Nick Hill.
Do you like the School District you’ve got? If so, you have a couple of people to vote for. If not, you have a different direction that you can go.
As Thomas Jefferson said. “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”
Good luck out there.
Park City School District’s clarity and trust continue to take hits.
Let’s say 20 years ago PCSD took out a loan and the final payment is this month. They could either acknowledge that they have paid off their debt and let taxes drop because the school district’s loan has been paid off. Or PCSD could say, we could really use that extra money and no one will notice, so let’s keep charging it.
That’s where we are.
And that’s what the school district is doing. While the certified tax rate should drop this year to reflect the fact that the school district paid off a capital levy, the school board wants to keep the rate artificially high because they could use that money to pay for cost overruns for construction at Jeremy Ranch and McPolin. They want taxes to be about $42 higher per year, for the average house, than they should be. They hope you won’t notice.
If we delve into trust issues deeper, the school district said they wouldn’t raise taxes to fund improvements at Jeremy and McPolin. However, the improvements will increase our taxes over what they would have been. During the recent school board meeting, Andrew Caplan tried to defend the concept by saying, “The promise was that we will not raise taxes beyond the current debt service.” To me, he is parsing words. The developments at Jeremy Ranch and McPolin were supposed to be paid for by increased revenue growth and not taxes. Dr. Gildea said they would be paid for by bake sales. This is clearly not the case. The cost overruns of 1-3% are now being paid for by taxes. This is unacceptable.
Instead of decreasing the tax burden on residents, as they should be doing, the School district is trying to hide cost overruns by removing tax decreases. Yes, it is complicated, but the bottom line is that your taxes should be less than they will be.
As someone who has been following this closely it is infuriating. The district signed up for $40 million in improvements based on lease revenue bonds. These weren’t supposed to raise taxes. Now we are hearing that we will pay more in taxes than we otherwise would and that money will be used for development related to these bonds. That’s a tax increase.
It’s another example of why there is little trust in the Park City School District and why we need a change.