PARK CITY, Utah — Over the last few weeks, multiple incidents of hate speech have emerged at Park City High School (PCHS), including the markings of a swastika and the N-word on classroom desks.
“The hate speech has appeared in the form of swastikas and racial slurs at multiple locations.” — PCHS Principal Roger Arbabi
What makes the situation even more unsettling is that the desk containing these remarks resides in the classroom of social studies teacher Josh Goldberg, a former service member in the Israeli army, Jewish teacher, and head of the Jewish student club.
“Was it targeted? I mean, I’m a Jewish teacher. I run a Jewish student club out of that classroom. It’s created major, major waves now,” he said in an interview with KSL.
Upon word surfacing about these racist markings, Goldberg stated that he had received a minimum of 50 emails from both students and parents, sharing countless occurrences of hate, racism, and unwanted behavior through the school and district.
“This is not just an attack on me personally or on Jews, obviously, because the N-word was included, but it’s an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on decency. It’s an attack on good people who believe in empathy, caring, and kindness and my response is to fight this with everything I’ve got. And I’m getting a lot of support,” Goldberg continued.
As previously mentioned, PCHS Principal Roger Arbabi issued a letter in response, and it continued stating, “As a community, we have zero tolerance for language or imagery that expresses hate towards a person or group based on religion, race, disability, sex or sexual orientation.”
Additionally, Park City School District Superintendent Jill Gildea said in response: “When an incident of racist language, hate speech or negative messaging occurs, this action goes against everything for which our schools stand; it is completely contrary to our core values, vision and goals as a learning organization. It is hurtful to all.”
In a letter from Park City Rabbi David Levinksy Temple Har Shalom, he wrote that he has not appreciated Gildea’s lack of attention to the matter, and pleads that both she and the school board should stand up to these acts of racism and hatred:
As many of you know, last week someone drew a swastika in Josh Goldberg’s classroom. Josh is a history teacher at PCHS and the 6th grade teacher in our religious school. Since then, Josh has documented nearly fifty cases of students in our school district experiencing bigotry in the past few years. I have been involved with some of these cases as well.
The principal of the High School, Roger Arbabi, has been wonderful, calling me personally and holding meetings with teachers, students, and myself to try to address this problem. I wish I could say the same about the Superintendent—Dr. Jill Gildea. Her email response to me was a cut-and-paste memo that neither acknowledged the pain in our community nor addressed this as a larger cultural issue. The school board remains silent.
This is not acceptable. I am doing something that I have not done before. I am calling on you to write to Dr. Jill Gildea (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and to CC the President of the school board Erin Grady (email@example.com ). I am asking you to express your dismay at the repeated incidents of bigoty—not just anti-Semitism … bigotry–in the schools. I am also asking you to advocate for both anti-bias training, which does not involve curricular changes, and for a K-12 diversity curriculum. It’s time for us to stand together and have our voices be heard. — David Levinsky
The Park City School District board released the following statement on Tuesday night:
Recent events at Park City High School and TMJH have reminded us that hate and bigotry still exist in all corners of our society.
The use of hurtful language and symbols isn’t new in our community nor will it likely ever go away, and we must address and use each incident as a learning opportunity for our children, our parents, and our fellow community members.
As many of you remember, several years ago we had racist graffiti at apartments on Kearns that was quickly painted over. Students and faculty rallied and showed support for our Latinx neighbors by boldly stating that this hate was unacceptable in our community. Today should be no different.
Over the last couple of weeks, racist words and hateful symbols including a swastika have been displayed and drawn on our school campuses, harming and insulting our community. The reaction from the community has rightfully and appropriately been one of shock, anger and sadness. We feel these emotions alongside each of you.
In particular, to those who have been targeted by these hateful actions, we stand with you. How we respond together will dictate how we move forward as a community in combating hate and bigotry.
When our students use graffiti and words to spew hatred it must be a teaching experience dealt with by not only our schools but our entire community.
In the past several days, many community members have reached out, some asking what they can do to help and how to support signaling their support recognizing that we are stronger together. Thank you.
Unfortunately, others have responded using harsh words of their own, personal attacks, and accusing the Superintendent and school board of being complicit in the propagation of hate.
Equity and inclusion are not just buzzwords for our school district. All decisions we make are intentionally evaluated and analyzed through a lens of equity, inclusion, and belonging.
The safety of our students and staff is a key tenet of education in our community. We will continue to investigate these incidents while also working to make this a learning experience for all that hate of any sort is not welcome in Park City.
Most importantly, as we move beyond these incidents of hate in our community, we must work together and in good faith with one another to combat hate, and not undermine or work against one another.
Email campaigns and personal attacks and nasty comments on social media against the board and administration are misplaced, unnecessary, and further perpetuate division in our community. It feels particularly harmful given that the majority of the school board is in fact Jewish.
We ask that if you have the bandwidth, the desire, the time, and the ability, to please reach out with ideas to share, offers of help to move along, and support to keep our community connected and working together.
Let love fight hate and let’s do this together and rest assured that educating against hatred will always be a priority in Park City schools.