Posted on April 11, 2011

Canyons District Announces Plans to Combat Racism

KSL-TV (Salt Lake City), April 8, 2011

After completing an investigation into an alleged racial incident at Alta High School last month and uncovering other “serious incidents,” the Canyons School District has outlined action it will take to prevent that behavior in the future.

But an official statement Friday, which detailed the chronology of the incident that precipitated the district probe, offered no new information on the nature of the other alleged episodes.

“We did uncover allegations or evidence of other serious incidents,” said David S. Doty, Canyons School District Superintendent. “They were serious enough that we felt it warranted further investigation by law enforcement.”


The investigation was prompted by an incident at a March 17 Spirit Bowl event where a junior student dressed in white–his class color–donned a white pillow case with holes cut out of it in an effort to taunt the senior class. Some thought his outfit resembled Ku Klux Klan attire.

The district launched an investigation that included intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice and placed placed the school’s principal Mont Widerberg and vice principal Mark Montague on paid leave pending the investigation’s outcome.

Three students were cited with misdemeanor unlawful acts at school for the Spirit Bowl incident and Sandy police said two of the students were also cited for allegedly texting an image of a burning cross and a Klansman superimposed with the phrase “Alta Pride.”

“I think what we have at Alta is the actions of a few that need to be eradicated root and branch and I’m committed to see that done,” Doty said.


As a result of the incident, the district announced it would now provide education and training in all Canyons schools on issues related to diversity and nondiscrimination. The efforts could involve resources and assistance from outside organizations including the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the First Amendment Center, the Utah 3Rs Project, the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah Inclusion Center and the Human Rights Education Center of Utah.


In addition, the district said it would create a Civility Commission comprised of parents, students, employees and community members from diverse backgrounds. The commission will aid in the district’s efforts to “foster a climate of respect, tolerance, and civility in Canyons schools and the broader community to which they connect.”

“Everyone’s responsible for resolving it,” Doty said. “I refuse to be the superintendent of a school that allows that kind of behavior to go on.”


Furthermore, the district will also conduct a comprehensive review of all of its federal Safe Schools and nondiscrimination policies to ensure that they are clear, strong and well communicated, the statement said.