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Canyons puts off public comments on racism probe

Published April 6, 2011 5:06 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This blog item was written by Tribune education reporter Rosemary Winters

In the wake of Canyons School District launching an investigation into "serious incidents" of racism at Alta High School, more than a dozen community members attended a Canyons Board of Education meeting Tuesday hoping to learn more about the district's probe and share their own concerns, questions or praise.

It was the board's first meeting since revelations last week that the district had uncovered other problems at Alta after investigating allegations that a junior, during a March 17 assembly, wore what resembled a Ku Klux Klan hood and made pro-Nazi references.

But patrons were kept waiting as a 5 p.m. closed session that was supposed to wrap up by 6 p.m. dragged on until 7:30 p.m. The board then held a brief, public discussion about plans to work with the U.S. Department of Justice to hold a community dialogue on racism.

A public comment period was scheduled to begin shortly after 8 p.m. But the board opted to move ahead of public comments, "recognition" of 300 Canyons students, employees and volunteers for various achievements and awards. Calling the individuals names and allowing each to shake hands with board members took one hour.

The hundreds honored, along with their supporters, cleared out of the meeting before public comments began.

So did others who had been planning to give feedback to the board.

"I came to commend the board and to applaud the board for discovering a problem and calling it by its name," said the Rev. Nurjhan Govan, pastor of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City.

But she lost patience with the extensive, recognition hour and left before public comments began. She had expected the board to have an open discussion about problems with racism.

"That's not what we got," she said. "They voted to change the order and sequence of the agenda and gave out 3,000 awards that they are still giving out. … We were snookered."

On her way out the door, one Alta High mom called the meeting a "disorganized mess."

— Rosemary Winters