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Springville High teacher placed on administrative leave following student complaints

On Monday at approximately 9:15 a.m., students at Springville High School staged a walkout in protest against a longtime teacher, stemming from accusations for alleged sexual harassment and inappropriate remarks.

The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday following multiple student complaints, while the investigation into his behavior is investigated, according to Lana Hiskey, Nebo School District spokesperson.

Hiskey said the students and parents involved in the walkout were very respectful. She added that the protest was staged on social media and students walked out of class for one period before returning.

The district has not released the name of the teacher as of Monday afternoon.

A petition online calling for the teacher to step down was started last week and had almost 2,500 signatures before it was deleted by the organizer. A second petition was then started, which now has almost 3,500 signatures.

“We appreciate the respectable manner that the students held the protest just off of the high school’s grounds,” Hiskey said in an interview with the Daily Herald.

She emphasized it is important for students and teachers to feel safe in reporting things to Springville High School or the district so that a thorough investigation can be done.

Hiskey told the Herald that the district had assembled a team last week that was ready for people to come forward, but that no formal complaints had been filed as of Friday.

On Monday, Hiskey confirmed that three formal complaints, all from former students, were filed with the school. More complaints are expected to come in moving forward, according to Hiskey.

One former student who was at the protest, Amalea Graham, graduated in 2015 and recounted some of her experiences with the teacher.

“I was 15 years old and during my time in his class, and he was just extremely inappropriate with me and the other female students in the class,” Graham said. “What I mean by inappropriate is showing an inappropriate amount of interest in their dating lives, their sex lives, asking them what boys they’ve been hanging out with, and that type of stuff. I experienced him just flat out look at the girls up and down, it’s not hard to tell where somebody’s eyes are looking. I experienced him making very derogatory, sexist comments towards the girls in our class literally every day.”

She added that this behavior was known throughout the Springville area, even leading to older students warning others about the teacher, his class and the behavior.

Melissa Jenson, a 2015 graduate of Springville High School, echoed similar stories of the teacher and how he was well known in Springville.

She added a story where the teacher allowed her to pass a test, despite being a couple of points shy, because he allegedly said he would let it slide because she was a “pretty girl.”

“We would all laugh about it and we didn’t realize the seriousness of how wildly inappropriate that was,” Graham said. “It was almost an inside joke in Springville, if you will, where everybody knew about it.”

Graham said that she believes the Nebo School District has been trying to hide the inappropriate behavior. She added that she can’t speak of the records for the district, but said she would be shocked if there were no complaints filed on the teacher.

“There was a good strong crowd out there, and were we all making it up?” Graham said. “There are many people that are trying to say that people may have been making these accusations up, trying to defend him. There are over 3,000 signatures on the petition and there were what seemed to be a couple of hundred people at the protest today. Seeing the sheer number of people that were there and willing to support was awesome.”

The investigative team will be made up of people that are removed from the situation, creating what Hiskey called an unbiased group, as well as the district’s attorneys.

“Now going forward we would just encourage that if anyone has any information, please come forward,” Hiskey said. “Our administrative team has been sending emails with a form for students to make it easier to submit a formal complaint. Going forward we will work with our investigative team.”

Hiskey emphasized students’ safety being of the utmost importance to the Nebo School District.

The next step to the process, Hiskey said, involves the investigative team being put together now that some formal complaints have been filed.

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Saratoga Springs vaulter, 12, picks up Pace Olympic baton, stars in new season of BYUtv show

She is 12 years old and about 5 feet, 2 inches tall — and she expects to be a pole vault Olympian by 2028.

If confidence and sheer determination means anything, Lacee Lynne Pace of Saratoga Springs, will no doubt be an Olympian. Her mother, Noelle Pikus-Pace, an Olympic silver medalist in the skeleton event, says she supports her all the way.

It’s Lacee’s idea and what she wants to do. More importantly, Lacee appears to have all the energy and drive it takes to get to the Olympics.

Before 2028, Lacee Pace says she has a lot to do. One of those things begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday on BYUtv.

Lacee Pace auditioned last summer and was selected to be on the third season of “All-Round Champion” one of BYUtv’s hit shows with a large viewership both on BYUtv and streaming on the BYUtv app.

The first season aired in 2020 and included summer sports such as diving, equestrian jumping and whitewater kayaking. The second season, in fall 2020, included winter sports such as figure skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

In addition to pole vaulting, the third season will include sport climbing, inline racing, soccer, tennis, track cycling, boxing, dance, trampoline and gymnastics.

The way the show is designed, all the contestants are included in all the episodes. They all get to compete in all the sports except their own sport, in which they mentor the other contestants on. The top scorer in the cumulative events is the winner.

It just so happens that the first episode is about pole vaulting, so in Tuesday’s show Lacee helps train the other competitors. She then competes in the other episodes.

Asked, “Why pole vaulting?” Lacee Pace said, “I love trying new things. I started when I was 10. I saw it at a track meet. I wanted to do a non-traditional and technical sport.”

It evidently was a good fit for Pace. She is second in the nation in her age group with her record being 9 feet. The No. 1 vaulter is just a little higher. Pace said her goal is to get to 10 feet soon.

After she got selected for the show, the hard part was leaving home for 12 weeks to live in Toronto, Canada. It may have been harder on her mom.

“Lacee has always been driven. I’ve seen it from a young age,” Noelle Pikus-Pace said. “We believe she is capable. She went for 12 weeks as a 12-year-old during a pandemic.”

Pikus-Pace said BYU leaders were great and the contestants bonded quickly. That’s good because the four U.S. contenders had to quarantine before they could join the Canadian contestants in Toronto.

“To be a parent is harder than being an Olympian,” Pikus-Pace said, acknowledging she can’t believe she let her daughter go for so long during a pandemic.

While Lacee Pace can’t divulge who the “All-Round Champion” is, she does appear to be wearing a nice big grin on her face which may indicate that she is at least proud of her 10 weeks of competition.

Even if she doesn’t win, Pikus-Pace said it was good for her daughter.

“We need to teach kids to be resilient, that setbacks can propel them forward,” Pikus-Pace said. “We need to teach kids to be strong right now.”

When she isn’t pole vaulting, Lacee Pace isn’t just sitting around. She has started an online seven-day course, “How to be Confident” for teen girls. Readers can find it on her mother’s website http://noellepikuspace.com.

For being just 12, Lacee’s list of accomplishments and involvements are impressive.

While she holds several vaulting records, here are some other things to take in. Lacee Pace has achieved the following:

n Costa Rican Nationals speed skating competition: 3rd place in her division.

n Rock climbing: Top 10 at Regionals and qualified for divisionals.

n At 12 years old, Lacee is the youngest and smallest one on her team with the Utah Pole Vault Academy.

n Lacee is also competitive in other sports including skiing, inline speed skating, rock climbing, soccer, softball and has even tried skeleton. Lacee also loves competing in piano competitions.

Lacee has already traveled and lived all around the world while her mom was training for the Olympics (Austria, Russia, Costa Rica); because of this, she really loves to learn and see what she’s capable of.

According to her resume, she wants to break the USA National World Record before she turns 15, which is an 11’6” inches vault.

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UTA doing away with COVID-19 task force, shifting focus to reviving ridership

After nearly a year of operation, the Utah Transit Authority will disband its COVID-19 task force, looking to put more resources toward increasing its slumping ridership numbers.

With cases of the disease dropping in Utah and the pool for vaccination appointments open to all Utah residents over the age of 16, UTA Executive Director Carolyn Gonot said the agency is shifting its focus to restore the systemwide ridership that fell by historic numbers due to the pandemic.

On April 5, 2020, in part as a response to what were already significant declines in ridership, UTA began scaling back service systemwide. For example, the agency reduced the frequency of service along specific bus routes from once every 15 minutes to once every 30 minutes. Stops on weekday FrontRunner service went from every 30 minutes to every hour.

More than 90% of the service was restored in August 2020, but shortly after the April service cuts, UTA created a special COVID-19 “recovery team” tasked with, among other things, restoring financial stability and regaining community confidence in the agency’s transit offerings. UTA surveyed employees, individual customers, and local companies and government agencies that purchase a large number of transit passes for their workers. Part of the initial focus was on matching service to the new, lowered demand driven by the pandemic.

“We didn’t know how long it would last,” Gonot said. “I do remember thinking about some of the early beginnings this would be a few months — maybe. But it has been about a year.”

Final ridership numbers from 2020 show a stark picture for ridership across all UTA services. During a recent board meeting, UTA Chief Operating Officer Eddy Cumins said UTA carried about 23.5 million total passengers during 2020, a drop of about 47% from ridership in both 2018 and 2019. Cumins said ridership on UTA bus routes fell by 40% during 2020, with light rail ridership falling by 52%. Hardest hit was the agency’s FrontRunner commuter rail, which saw ridership decreases of more than 60% last year.

UTA General Manager Lorin Simpson said while the ridership scenario is definitely a concern, it’s not all bleak. He said the fluctuating losses UTA saw during the first several months of the pandemic have seemed to stabilize.

The agency is now working through its “Five Year Service Plan,” which is designed to achieve three overarching post-pandemic goals: fine-tune transit service to align it with projected future revenue, increase overall ridership and increase consumer confidence in transit. UTA intends to update the plan to reflect changes in local land use patterns, demographics, new technologies and to bring service in line with financial and labor resources.

As part of the plan, UTA wants to add new, 15-minute bus service between Farmington and Ogden; add new bus service between the Ogden and Pleasant View FrontRunner stations; improve local bus connections in Ogden, South Ogden and Washington Terrace; improve connections to the Roy FrontRunner Station and reduce transfer times there; build a new transit hub at Weber State University; and continue purchasing right-of-way for the northward expansion of FrontRunner into Box Elder County.

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Campus police arrest BYU senior in string of groping reports

On Monday, the BYU Police Department arrested a male suspect in connection with five different groping reports on campus over the weekend.

BYU Lieutenant Jeff Long said that the suspect was identical in all of the cases, which was confirmed through video footage.

“What his modus operandi is, is he’ll come up behind a female and he’ll pretend that he tripped or fell,” Long said. “As he does it, he’ll grope them in the process and say something like, ‘Oh, sorry.’ Then he’ll run off.”

The alleged suspect in the case was arrested on Monday and is a 26-year-old Provo resident and BYU senior. In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Long confirmed that the suspect was affiliated with BYU and that he lived just south of campus.

Long credited the arrest to the camera system on campus, citing that the video footage from the incidents allowed officers to track the suspect to his vehicle and identify his license plate.

“Unfortunately we received no tips, it was all through our camera system and through our license plate reader,” Long said. “That’s how we identified him. You would think that tips would be flooding in, but that didn’t happen unfortunately.”

Long said that there were two victims who reported the groping immediately, with a third victim calling in late, a fourth victim reporting an incident on Sunday night, and a fifth victim reporting an incident on Monday.

He added that the fifth victim thought the groping was an accident, but later reported it after seeing media coverage.

One of the groping incidents occurred on Saturday at approximately 2 p.m., while the other four occurred on Sunday between approximately 12:20 and 3 p.m.

Student safety is the top priority, according to Long, and that is why a timely warning was immediately put out by campus police. Long continued, saying that the goal is to protect the campus community and make sure the suspect is held accountable.

Long advised people to be on the lookout at all times, even on a Sunday afternoon in Provo.