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Paul Rolly: Canyons District's settlement in racism case was $55k

Published February 13, 2012 7:23 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Canyons School District has agreed to pay former Alta High assistant principal Mark Montague $55,000 to settle a grievance he filed after being transferred amid implications he had condoned racist incidents. The district also will remove a letter of reprimand and notice of probation from his file.

Montague, in the settlement agreement, promised to drop all claims he may have against the district. He also agreed to resign.

I wrote about Montague's settlement with the district last month, but had no details because the two parties agreed to keep the terms confidential.

But I received the terms and conditions Friday after filing a request for the document under the Government Records Access and Management Act.

Montague filed the grievance after he was transferred to Butler Middle School in the wake of an incident in which a student complained a costume worn at a pep assembly resembled Ku Klux Klan attire. The allegations were denied by students, but after a district investigation, Montague was transferred and principal Mont Widerberg resigned.

Montague complained in his grievance that public statements from the district implied there were other incidents of alleged racism at the school, and those allegations were added to a letter of reprimand placed in Montague's file.

At the time the settlement was announced, Montague said he was pleased that he had been cleared of any claims of racism and noted he had always taught his children and his students the importance of respect for everyone.

Montague had been a teacher and school administrator in the Jordan School District for more than 30 years. He retired in 2008, but was asked to come back in 2009 as assistant principal at Alta in the new Canyons District.

Let the games begin • A flier hitting mailboxes in Utah the past few days blasts Republican Senate candidates Dan Liljenquist and Chris Herrod for trying to keep their business as legislators secret from the public, proclaiming the two politicians "don't want you to know what they're doing."

Gee, I wonder who might be behind that flier?

The mailer is from an organization called Freedom Path, whose mailing address is 2150 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City.

The group's name is strangely similar to FreedomWorks, which recently sent out a 45-page mailer targeting Sen. Orrin Hatch, the incumbent Liljenquist and Herrod hope to unseat at the GOP State Convention this spring.

I'm going to take a leap of faith and assume the mailer is from a pro-Hatch group. It criticizes Liljenquist, who recently resigned from the State Senate to run against Hatch, and Herrod, who decided to remain in the House while challenging the senator, for their "yes" votes on the infamous HB477 last legislative session. That was the bill that would have gutted Utah's public records access law had it not been repealed after outcries from the public.

The flier notes that Liljenquist and Herrod voted to keep documents, voice mails and text messages hidden from the public.

Of course, if their "yes" votes should disqualify them from being considered for public office, then, according to the mailer's logic, every Republican in the Utah Legislature should resign, because they all voted for it the first time. They backtracked only after they realized their constituents were about to tar and feather them, figuratively speaking.

Protecting our morals • With a bill aimed at gutting sex education in public schools apparently sailing through the Legislature this year — because we don't want our children to learn about birth control — I am reminded of a bill introduced in the House several years ago by former Democratic Rep. Frank Pignanelli.

That bill made it explicitly illegal to have sex with animals.

It was voted down in the House, with one representative stating, "Rep. Pignanelli just doesn't understand the pressures on the farm in rural Utah."

prolly@sltrib.com