At least 7 Park City School District employees failed to report child abuse, charges allege

The Park City School District is facing three counts of failing to report child abuse.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Park City School District offices in Park City on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

The Park City School District is facing three misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse after its staff allegedly did not report sexual abuse accusations to proper authorities, the Summit County Attorney’s Office announced Monday.

State law mandates that individuals are obligated to report child abuse allegations to proper authorities, including police or child protective services. Prosecutors filed charges against the entire school district Monday because an investigation found “systemic and institutional failure,” Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said during an afternoon news conference.

Charging documents indicate Park City School District employees did not notify police or child protective services about at least three reports of sexual abuse. The documents indicate at least seven employees are implicated in the case but do not name them “to protect the identity of children and their families.”

County attorney’s office spokesperson Andrew Leatham declined to provide more information about those employees Monday, such as job titles or departments, citing the same reasoning.

Olson said there is a chance charges against individuals will follow and that the law is not ambiguous.

“We expect more,” she said, “not less, out of professionals who are aware, or should be aware, of their duty.”

The ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Park City Police Department, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, and the county attorney’s office, according to a Monday news release.

Olson said she decided to file charges Monday, before the investigation concluded, because she learned of another instance where district employees apparently did not report abuse allegations just last week, “in real time.”

“I was troubled that the school district, knowing there was a pending investigation, still failed to report a case last week,” she said.

That apparent failure to report was not included in the charging documents filed Monday. Olson said there is a “high probability” more families may come forward.

The Park City School District did not immediately comment on the charges when reached by The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday afternoon.

Allegations in the first case

The criminal investigation began Nov. 29, 2021, when the parent of a Park City student told a medical professional that someone at her son’s school had touched him inappropriately in 2019.

The medical professional, who is a mandatory reporter, alerted police.

Officers learned that the child’s parents went to a meeting with school district employees in October 2019 to discuss the alleged abuse. The parent told the employees, identified in charging documents only as “SDP#1″ and “SDP#2,” that SDP#1 had touched her child’s genitals.

Those employees reported the allegation to an employee in the superintendent’s office, identified as “SDP#3,” but none reported the allegation to law enforcement or child protective services, charging documents indicate.

When a Department of Child and Family Services representative spoke with Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea on Nov. 29, Gildea said she knew about the 2019 allegation and that it had been resolved. She advised the investigator to speak with an unidentified employee referred to as “SDP#5.” Charging documents indicate that that person did not return phone calls from police.

Gildea also told investigators that it was up to “the parents” to report allegations of child abuse to police or child protective services, charging documents state. When the investigator “inquired further,” Gildea said she “did not know because she wasn’t working at the district in 2019.”

Gildea began working as the school district’s superintendent in August 2018. Leatham confirmed that start date to The Tribune.

Law enforcement subpoenaed documents about the 2019 allegation and found no evidence that the school district investigated it — “nor is the defendant qualified or authorized to do so,” charges note.

That subpoena did turn up documents from October 2021 that show an employee identified as “SDP#4″ knew they were legally required to report the allegation and discussed it with the parent in an email.

“My school psychologist colleague brought up that, as mandated report[ers], we are obligated to report any (time) abuse is suspect or known of,” SDP#4 wrote, as quoted in the charging documents. “Since this happened two years ago, I don’t want to stir up things that were resolved already, but I also do not want to ignore potential issues that could still be a concern. I do not want to make any assumptions so please let me know if it is a current concern.”

SDP#4 later told police they reported the allegation to a colleague, SDP#5, charging documents state.

Two more cases detailed in documents

As police continued to investigate what transpired after the 2019 allegation, officers uncovered two other unreported allegations.

This month, another parent told police that their son had been raped by another student. Charging documents state a school district employee, identified as “SDP#6,” heard about the alleged rape from a student and told the child’s parents afterward but did not tell proper authorities.

Law enforcement also learned that in December 2021, the Park City School District learned another student was accused of raping a female classmate. Police received documents that show a school employee, “SDP#7,” interviewed the students and later held a mediation with the children and their parents but did not tell proper authorities.

Both of those allegations “were unearthed in the course and scope of an entirely separate law enforcement investigation in March, 2022,” charging documents state.

“Parents and the public need to be aware that if an allegation of child abuse or neglect was reported to Park City School District schools in the past, that allegation may not have been reported to the proper authorities and may not have been properly investigated,” the attorney’s office said in a statement Monday.

Those who have made such reports solely to a Park City school or school district officials should call Utah Child Protective Services at 855-323-3237 or Summit County dispatchers at 435-615-3600, the attorney’s office advised.

As of Monday afternoon, no court dates have been scheduled in this case.