PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Kathryn Moore, a school teacher who previously worked at Parley’s Park Elementary, is suing the Park City School District following an alleged retaliation from the school’s principal regarding a report of sexual harassment among her students.
On Sept. 3, 2020 the Park City School District offered Moore a contract position as a fifth-grade teacher for the 2020-2021 school year, which she accepted.
Prior to accepting the position, Moore has over 13 years of teaching experience and reportedly excelled in her classroom as an effective and well-liked teacher. In fact, Parley’s Park principal, Daren Houck, evaluated her as “highly effective,” which is the highest mark, in all areas of her teaching.
The incident of sexual harassment amongst children at the school happened on Dec. 4, 2020, when a group of five girls in Ms. Moore’s class allegedly came to her reporting that one of the boys was “touching them inappropriately and staring at them in ways that made them uncomfortable.”
After hearing the girls’ complaints, Moore went to Principal Houck and told him what the girls had said.
According to the lawsuit, Houck asked Moore to inform the parents of both the boy and the girls, which she did, and told her to segregate her classroom, seating all the boys on one side and all the girls on the other.
Moore states she strongly disagreed with Houck’s direction but followed anyway. The lawsuit also alleges that Houck went as far as to separate the children outside the classroom, disallowing boys and girls from eating lunch together, or playing at recess.
Beyond these actions, Houck allegedly did not take any other steps to address the issue.
According to Moore, the classroom segregation upset both the students and their parents greatly, as she says she received multiple complaints from parents about the negative effect the separation was having on their children.
On Jan. 11, 2021, a day when Moore was not present, her students were interviewed individually, and Moore was allegedly told that the “investigation” revealed a “harmonious classroom” and that it was time to “reintegrate” her students.
According to the lawsuit, a substitute teacher and the school’s business administrator, Jobana Gertz, showed up to Moore’s classroom later that month, telling Moore that she was being replaced due to her request for transfer to a different school.
Moore claims that she had not, in fact, requested a transfer and was left entirely confused by the situation.
Houck reportedly showed up shortly after to tell Ms. Moore that she was being replaced, that everything was fine, and that it was all just a misunderstanding.
The lawsuit states that the following day, Moore was called into Houck’s office, where Gertz and the school district’s Director of Human Resources, Dr. Shad Sorenson, were already present.
Dr. Sorenson then allegedly told Moore that she was “being given the opportunity” to transfer to a different school and that it would be a “good idea” for her to take the “opportunity.”
Moore claims to have gotten the “distinct impression” that the opportunity was not optional.
The lawsuit shows that Houck continued to tell Moore that parents had been complaining about her classroom being separated by gender and that it had been “a tough couple months,” adding that she needed a “rest” from teaching and the chance to “learn from another principal.”
Houck reportedly told Moore that she had to leave campus for the rest of the day, and that she could come back another day to say goodbye to her students, but that it was “not necessary.”
Dr. Sorenson allegedly told Moore that a mid-year transfer could be a “career killer,” but assured her that the school district would make sure that didn’t happen.
The following day, Moore was transferred to Trailside Elementary School, where she says she was not given a teaching position, but instead was given the title of “permanent substitute teacher,” with no job description. Moore claims that for the remainder of the year, she was largely assigned busy work, such as taking inventory, spending very little time in the classroom, and very rarely being called upon to substitute teach.
On April 2, 2021, the district gave Moore a nonrenewal letter, informing her that her one-year contract would not be extended for the following school year.
According to the lawsuit, Moore’s status was considered as a “temporary” employee, not a “provisional” employee, meaning that she could be terminated at any time for any reason and that her contract would not automatically renew. Thus, there was “no reason” for the district to give her a nonrenewal letter.
Many school districts reportedly have policies stating that they will not hire a teacher who recently received a nonrenewal letter, and others instate this policy as an unwritten practice.
Moore states that when she began applying for open teaching positions, saying that she, in fact, applied for every single open position for which she was qualified in the district (and many in neighboring districts), she was not offered a position for any of the openings to which she applied. She even notes that most of the positions she had applied for remained open after her application was rejected.
The lawsuit states that when it became apparent to Moore that the nonrenewal letter in her personnel file was preventing her from getting a teaching position at a public school, Moore began applying to private schools instead, where she found a position almost immediately.
Moore’s salary and benefits, however, are substantially lower in her private school position than if she were a district employee, and is ineligible to participate in the Utah Retirement System.
Moore is seeking the following compensation from the Park City School District:
- Payment of lost wages and benefits
- Compensation for the value of retirement benefits
- Compensatory damages
- Consequential damages
- Injunctive relief, including but not limited to, reinstatement
- For punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the jury
- For all costs of litigation and attorneys’ fees
- Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest at the highest lawful rate
- Further and additional relief the court deems just and proper
The Park City School District has declined to comment as it is a pending litigation.