Teacher sues Utah school district, claiming retaliation for reporting harassment

A former elementary school teacher in Park City is suing the school district claiming she was retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment on the playground.

A former elementary school teacher in Park City is suing the school district claiming she was retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment on the playground. (MaxyM, Shutterstock)

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PARK CITY — A former Park City elementary school teacher is suing the district, claiming she was retaliated against and can no longer get a full-time job at a public school because she reported sexual harassment of students.

Kathryn Moore filed her lawsuit last week in Summit County's 3rd District Court against the Park City School District.

A Park City School District spokeswoman declined to comment about the lawsuit Monday, saying the district does not comment on pending litigation.

Moore was hired on a one-year contract to teach fifth grade at Parley's Park Elementary for the 2020-21 school year and said she had 13 years of teaching experience prior to working at Parley's Park.

On Dec. 4, 2020, several girls in Moore's classroom came to her after recess to report that one of the boys in the class "was touching them inappropriately and staring at them in ways that made them uncomfortable," the lawsuit states.

Moore said she immediately reported the allegations to the principal, who in turn told her to notify the parents of all the girls and the boy, which Moore said she did.

Then on Dec. 18, the principal told Moore to "segregate her classroom by gender, seating all the boys on one side of the classroom and all the girls on the other," according to the lawsuit.

That was right before winter break. Though she disagreed with the directive, Moore said she followed the principal's orders and had the class segregated when students returned from break. The principal also "told the children that this segregation went beyond the walls of Ms. Moore's classroom — they were not allowed to eat lunch with students of the opposite gender or play with them at recess," the lawsuit alleges.

But beyond splitting up the boys and girls, the lawsuit contends that no other action was taken to investigate the complaints or the behavior of the boy.

"The segregation of Ms. Moore's classroom upset both her students and their parents. Both the school and Ms. Moore received multiple complaints from parents about the segregated classroom and the negative effect it was having on their children," according to the suit.

On Jan. 11, 2021 — a day that Moore was not at school — each of her students was interviewed by school administrators individually. When Moore returned to the classroom, she was told "the 'investigation' revealed a 'harmonious classroom,' and that it was time to 'reintegrate' the students," the lawsuit says.

On Jan. 26, 2021, a substitute teacher showed up in Moore's classroom saying she was there to take over because Moore had requested a transfer to a different school. Moore said she never requested a transfer and was told the next day by the principal and a district official that it would be a "good idea" for her to transfer.

"Ms. Moore got the distinct impression that it was not optional," the lawsuit states.

"(The principal) informed Ms. Moore that parents had been complaining about her classroom being segregated by gender and that it had been a tough couple of months. (He) suggested that Ms. Moore needed a 'rest' from teaching and the chance to 'learn from another principal.'"

The next day, Moore was transferred to another school as a "permanent substitute teacher" but spent little time in the classroom and said she was assigned "busy work."

"Despite repeated requests for clarification regarding her employment status, the district refused to give her a job," Moore's attorney, Katie Panzer, said in a statement.

At the end of the school year, Moore was given a "nonrenewal letter," notifying her that her one-year contract would not be extended. But Moore says the letter is hurting her career and all the school district had to do was simply choose to not renew her contract, the lawsuit states.

"Some school districts have policies stating they will not hire a teacher who recently received a nonrenewal letter. Many other districts have an unwritten practice that they will not hire teachers who recently received nonrenewal letters," the lawsuit says.

Moore says she has applied for numerous public school teaching positions in Summit County and Wasatch County since the letter was issued and has not received any offers.

Moore contends that the school district is retaliating against her for reporting sexual harassment in violation of Title IX. Title IX, established by the U.S. Department of Education in 1972, was created to protect people from discrimination based on sex.

"Ms. Moore filed a Title IX lawsuit against the district not only to vindicate her own rights, but to protect Park City's children," Panzer said.

"No teacher should be retaliated against for protecting their students," Moore added in a statement. "I am concerned for the safety of our Park City School District students. I am equally concerned that the district's decision to punish a teacher for reporting sexual harassment of a student will discourage others from coming forward in the future."

Moore is seeking lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages, reinstatement and punitive damages.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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