How a Utah school district will resolve criminal charges of failing to report child abuse

Park City School District has come to a deal with prosecutors by agreeing to provide more training on mandatory reporting.

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

Accused of failing to report child abuse allegations, Park City School District will avoid further criminal prosecution through a deal reached with prosecutors.

The district has agreed to provide additional training for teachers and administrators as part of a diversion agreement — similar to a settlement — signed late last month.

Under the agreement, the district has 24 months to add the training, which either needs to be provided by or approved by the Summit County Attorney’s Office. The training will focus on how district officials are “mandatory reporters,” meaning they are required by law to report all allegations of abuse to police or child protective services.

Park City School District will also be required to report any further accounts of child abuse or neglect. And it will need to cooperate with the attorney’s office on any investigations.

Failure to complete those terms by July 2024 means the prosecution could be reinstated.

A joint statement from the district and the attorney’s office says “this resolution serves the interests of justice in this case.”

The district was charged in March this year with three misdemeanors for not sharing details of alleged abuse of minors with law enforcement. Prosecutors said that seven school employees knew about three separate allegations and did not come forward.

At the time, Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said the investigation by her office — as well as Park City police and the county sheriff’s office — found “systemic and institutional failure.”

Olson referred all comment on the diversion agreement Thursday to the joint statement, as did the attorney representing Park City School District in the case.

The criminal investigation began in November 2021, when a Park City student told a medical professional that his principal had touched him inappropriately in 2019.

That medical professional alerted police and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, as required.

The parents of the student have also since filed a separate lawsuit against the district and their son’s school for failing to investigate their son’s concerns and not reporting the allegations. They also say the school retaliated against the boy, who was four years old at the time but is now going into third grade, by taking away special education services that he needed because he had accused the principal of assault.

The case is still pending in federal court; an attorney for the family did not respond to a request for comment on the school district resolving the previous criminal charges.

Olson has said her office was not able to substantiate any abuse by the principal and does not plan to pursue a case against him. (The parents argue in their lawsuit that because of the delay and the nature of the alleged abuse, any proof other than their son’s statement would be hard to come by.)

In the joint statement, Olson says there are “no substantiated instances of child abuse or neglect underlying the failures to report alleged in the charging document in this case.” And she says there’s no evidence of any district administrators or school board members advising employees not to report.

The failure to report was the problem, she said, not any proven abuse.

Since the law enforcement investigation began, officers documented two other cases where Park City School District employees allegedly knew about abuse but did not report to police.

In March, a parent told police that their son had been raped by another student. Summit County charging documents state that a school district employee 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 interviewed the students and later held a mediation with the children and their parents but also did not report it to authorities.

Summit County prosecutors have encouraged district parents who fear school officials may not have properly reported allegations to authorities to call Utah Child Protective Services at 855-323-3237 or Summit County dispatchers at 435-615-3600. Olson originally said she believed there could be additional cases uncovered.

There is also another lawsuit pending against the district. In that, a Park City teacher says that she was retaliated against after she did report that a student had inappropriately touched girls in her class. Kathy Moore says the principal did nothing with her report and then demoted her.

In the joint statement, Olson says that she “wishes to remind everyone that we are all mandatory reporters, not just school district personnel. Every individual, parent, guardian, community member, and community institution are important partners protecting child safety.”

The diversion agreement is not a conviction or admission of guilt, though, as the joint statement says. And Park City School District notes that it has already started to provide the necessary training.

The district said it invited the county attorney’s office and law enforcement to speak with employees on mandatory reporting in April.