Guest editorial: Park City school board says dissenting opinions are fine, but harassment crosses the line
Park City Board of Education
In regards to current community discussions involving Park City School District, the Board of Education wants to remind the community of the mission and vision for the district created in 2017 through community input and shared collective values and aspirations of our learning organization.
Our mission is to inspire and support all students equitably to achieve their academic and social potential. Our vision is student-centered with a focus and emphasis on the whole child — our students are safe, supported, engaged and healthy.
When we say “all students” we literally mean all students regardless of their socioeconomic status, their religious beliefs, their immigration status, their sexual preference, their learning ability or any other factors with which students may identify.
There has been recent discussion around a professional development module that was presented to teachers at Trailside Elementary in August by the equity officer from the Utah State Board of Education. The program, called “Welcoming Schools,” focuses on anti-bullying and was in a direct response to two forces: specific bullying that our teachers witnessed at that school and state law that mandates anti-bullying programs be adopted at all districts. Given this program is state approved and administered, we did not anticipate the criticism that we have received via anonymous letters, social media posts and threats of legal action.
We welcome feedback from parents and community members but ask that this discourse remain civil and that threats of legal action or harassment against specific members of district staff stop immediately. PCSD employees are our friends, neighbors and community members and deserve our respect regardless of differences in opinions.
We would also like to address recent criticism and harassment around repairs being done to the district-owned property where the Superintendent and her family live. In response to the community’s desire for the superintendent to live within the district boundaries, the board purchased a residence in Jeremy Ranch. The board decided that purchasing a property was a more efficient use of resources then providing a rent stipend that we would have no equity benefit.
Given the superintendent’s residence is 25 years old, repairs were included in the budget for much-needed safety and structural improvements. So far a total budget allocation of $67,000 has been spent.
Unfortunately, we are now seeing complaints on social media and in the press that both mischaracterize the maintenance being done and directly attacking the superintendent. These repairs are benefiting the same neighbors who are complaining about the work being done.
Please remember that online abuse, including inciting people to go to the house and threaten and harass the superintendent, is not only potentially illegal but also morally wrong. It feels inappropriate in this case, where a parent of the family residing in this residence is working for the children of this community.
Most troubling is that this district property was attacked last week when a rock was thrown through one of the windows in response to the vitriol that certain “neighbors” have been posting on a popular social media site. We are embarrassed and ashamed that this is how some members of the neighborhood have welcomed the superintendent and her family to Park City.
We value dissenting opinion and comments at all times, but we will not tolerate verbal, written or physical harassment of district employees. This behavior is not only dangerous and illegal but sets a terrible example for the children of Park City.
We believe these actions and words belong to a vocal minority and we appeal to the rest of the community, families and individuals who make up the Park City community that we know and love. Please stand up for what is right and push back against those who feel that threats, intimidation and physical violence are better avenues of expression that traditional conversation and discourse.
With Erin’s leadership, we find comfort knowing more families like ours will have the privilege to give their own kids a solid foundation of lifelong learning for generations to come.
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