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Utah teacher sues school district after she says officials retaliated against her for reporting sexual harassment among 5th-grade students

By Michelle Watson, CNN

A teacher in Utah is suing her former employer after she said it retaliated against her for reporting sexual harassment among her students, according to court documents filed last week.

Kathryn Moore is suing Utah’s Park City School District “for violations of Title IX” and “state breach of contract,” according to the suit filed in the 3rd District Court for Summit County, Utah.

The school district superintendent said in an email to CNN that the district is “unable to comment on either pending litigation or personnel matters.”

Moore was hired as a temporary employee for the 2020-2021 school year for Parley’s Park Elementary School, according to the lawsuit.

The school serves about 600 students and is roughly 33 miles east of Salt Lake City.

In December 2020, a few of the girls in Moore’s fifth-grade class told her that “one of the boys in the class was touching them inappropriately and staring at them in ways that made them uncomfortable,” according to the lawsuit.

Moore “immediately” told the principal, and the principal suggested that she tell the girls’ parents, the suit said.

Two weeks later, the principal suggested that Moore “segregate her classroom by gender, seating all the boys on one side of the classroom and all the girls on the other.” the complaint says.

The principal also told her to notify the parents of the boy who was allegedly harassing the girls, according to the suit.

Moore “strongly disagreed” with the class segregation but followed the principal’s instructions, according to the suit.

The principal made no other efforts to “investigate the female students’ complaints, correct the behavior of the accused male student, or protect female students from further sexual harassment,” the suit alleges.

“The segregation of Ms. Moore’s classroom upset both her students and their parents,” the suit said. “Both the school and Ms. Moore received multiple complaints from parents about the segregated classroom and the negative effect it was having on their children,” the suit added.

In January 2021, Moore’s students were interviewed one by one outside her classroom, but Moore didn’t know why, the suit says.

Moore was told “the ‘investigation’ revealed a ‘harmonious classroom,’ and that it was time to ‘reintegrate’ the students.”

Two weeks later, a replacement teacher showed up to Moore’s classroom, saying Moore had requested to be transferred, despite Moore never requesting a transfer from Parley’s Park Elementary, the suit said. Moments later, the principal showed up and said it was all a “misunderstanding.”

The next day, Moore was required to report to the principal’s office first thing, the suit said. When she arrived, the suit says, “she was ‘being given the opportunity’ to transfer to a different school.”

While the district’s director of human resources said the transfer was an “opportunity,” Moore felt as though the transfer was not optional, according to the suit.

“Ms. Moore was not given any choice in the matter,” the suit said.

“No teacher should be retaliated against for protecting their students,” Moore said in a news release from her attorney. “I am concerned for the safety of our Park City School District students.”

Moore is asking for lost wages and benefits along with punitive damages and legal fees, among other things, according to the suit. She’s also requested a trial before a jury.

Utah’s attorney general’s office is representing the school district in the case, according to Richard Piatt, the director of communications for the attorney general’s office.

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