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Utah school district agrees to resolve ‘gauntlet of harassment,’ including 27 Jew-hatred incidents

"We look forward to active work with this district going forward to correct the gauntlet of harassment its students have had to endure," stated Catherine Lhamon, a U.S. assistant secretary at the Education Department.

Miguel Cardona, the U.S. education secretary, speaks at the 2024 Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: U. S. Department of Education.
Miguel Cardona, the U.S. education secretary, speaks at the 2024 Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: U. S. Department of Education.

Park City School District in Utah agreed on Wednesday to resolve a U.S. Department of Education Title VI investigation for harassment, including “at least 27 incidents of antisemitism,” at Ecker Hill Middle School, Treasure Mountain Junior High School and Park City High School.

In the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, there were at least nine documented incidents of antisemitism at each of the three schools, the department stated. Incidents included students drawing swastikas, doing Nazi salutes, playing Nazi music, and asking if people support Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, according to the department.

Students also searched for “Kill all Jews” on a school computer, dressed as Chassidic Jews for Halloween and wrote or said “I hate the Jews,” “The Nazis were right,” “I wish I was Hitler, so I could cut people in half,” “Heil Hitler,” “It is not racist if I say I want to kill all the Jews,” “What’s the difference between a Jew and Harry Potter? Harry Potter escaped the gas chamber” and “Hitler sent me here to kill you.” (Students also wrote directed an expletive at “these Jewish kids.”)

A student also directed slurs at a Jewish kid and said the latter should commit suicide in a hallway; another student said “I’m killing Jews tonight,” according to the department. A former Treasure Mountain Junior High School employee told the department that “Jewish students at TES regularly had to go to counseling because of harassment.”

“Today’s agreement commits the Park City School District to fulfill its federal civil-rights obligation to ensure that all of its students can learn without discriminatory harassment in its schools,” stated Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

“We look forward to active work with this district going forward to correct the gauntlet of harassment its students have had to endure and to protect all students from targeted discrimination that impedes their equal access to education,” Lhamon added.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigated seven complaints against the Park City School District filed in 2023, per a department release.

The department website notes three separate Title VI investigations under the 1964 Civil Rights Act which the department announced in 2023, on Feb. 16, March 7 and April 20.

“The complaints alleged that ongoing harassment based on race, national origin (including antisemitic harassment), disability and sex created hostile environments for students at the district’s middle school, junior high and high school,” according to the department.

The Office for Civil Rights found that the Utah district “received more than 180 reports of students harassing other students based on race, national origin, sex and disability” between 2021 and 2023, and that the district “took some action to address this harassment, such as disciplining harassing students.”

But the district’s “responses to repeated harassment of Black, Asian and Jewish students,” and based on sex, “including slurs, threats, name-calling, gestures, symbols and assaults, among other actions that negatively affected their access to education, did not meet the district’s federal civil rights obligations,” the department said.

“In particular, the district repeatedly failed to investigate allegations of race-based and antisemitic harassment” and “to take effective steps to end hostile environments based on race and antisemitic harassment that the district confirmed,” according to the department.

It also singled out the district’s failure “to provide complainants information about the availability of supportive measures and how to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment” and its inadequate records.

The district agreed to review and update its policies for handling such harassment and to better track future incidents, among other steps.

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