Antisemitism
AntisemitismISTOCK

The US Department of Education has concluded its investigation into a public school district in Park City, Utah, over reports of antisemitic harassment and other forms of discrimination, with the district agreeing to improve its anti-bias training and report future incidents of hate to the federal government.

The resolution agreement is only the second such conclusion to a Title VI “shared ancestry” antisemitic discrimination case since the department was flooded with new investigations in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. Both of the resolved cases concerned allegations that predated Oct. 7, and neither appears to involve Israel.

The Park City case also involved discrimination based on disability status, gender and a host of other issues: The district received more than 180 reports of discrimination between 2021 and 2023.

The original complainant in the Park City case was Season Cain, a Jewish parent, according to local reports. Cain filed the complaint with the federal education department’s Office of Civil Rights in February 2023; the case was opened later that month.

Cain said her daughter, who was in middle school at the time, was the victim of antisemitic bullying when another student yelled “KKK” to her face. The investigation later expanded to include multiple other alleged racist and discriminatory incidents within the district.

In the resolution announcement Wednesday, OCR said the district “repeatedly failed to investigate allegations of race-based and antisemitic harassment” and failed “to take effective steps to end hostile environments based on race and antisemitic harassment that the district confirmed,” among other issues.

The district agreed to review all harassment instances, conduct a climate assessment, notify students and parents about their harassment prohibitions, conduct more thorough anti-harassment training for staff and students, and report its handling of all harassment complaints to OCR for the next two years.

In a letter to parents, district superintendent Jill Gildea said the investigation “illuminated challenges within our secondary schools concerning incidents of student-to-student harassment and discrimination, most often verbal, based on race, national origin (including antisemitism), sex, or disability.” A lengthy statement and Q&A on the resolution agreement posted to the district’s website made no other mention of antisemitism.

Park City, a mountain resort town that hosts the Sundance Film Festival, is home to a small year-round Jewish community. There is one Reform synagogue and one Chabad center in the area. Local residents have fought district efforts to institute diversity- and equity-focused initiatives, calling them a form of “surrender” and biased against conservatives, according to local reports.

Post-Oct. 7, OCR’s other successful antisemitism-related resolution agreement concerns a public K-12 school district in Delaware, which agreed to similar terms as Park City. Unlike in Park City, the Delaware district also agreed to financially compensate a Jewish family affected by antisemitic bullying for mental health-related costs. The office has also ended antisemitism investigations into some prominent universities, including Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, because of simultaneous lawsuits filed against the schools by Jewish students.

In addition to dozens of active “shared ancestry” cases predating Oct. 7, OCR has opened more than 80 such cases since the start of the war. Many involve allegations of either antisemitism or Islamophobia related to the war on college and K-12 campuses.