DOJ investigation uncovers ‘serious and widespread racial harassment’ in Utah school district

Oct 21, 2021, 6:24 PM | Updated: Oct 22, 2021, 6:12 am

FARMINGTON, Utah — The Davis School District agreed to take steps to address widespread racial harassment found in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. It also found the school district persistently failed to respond to reports of race-based harassment.

The investigation found “widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students” including hundreds of instances of the use of racial slurs and epithets and physical assaults at dozens of schools.

The report said “Black students reported striking similar experiences throughout the district.” Those who attended school in other districts said things were worse in the Davis School District.

Abuses included:

  • Davis disciplined Black students more harshly than white peers for similar behavior
  • Davis denied Black students the ability for form student groups but supported similar requests by other students
  • Persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment
  • Use of racial slurs against Black students including saying they had dirty skin or their skin looked like feces
  • Taunted students with animal names or noises, including apes
  • Touching or pulling student’s hair without permission
  • Non-Black students demanded an “N-word pass” allowing use of the N-word with impunity and threatening or physically assaulting those who denied the demand
  • Repeatedly referencing slavery or lynching
  • Telling Black students to pick cotton or saying “you are my slave” and such harassment increased when teaching about slavery took place, which some Black students felt was not done in a respectful manner
  • Hundreds of documented uses of the N-word

“These incidents took place on a daily or weekly basis. Some students, now in middle and high school, said they had experienced racial harassment each year since they were kindergarteners,” the report stated.

At times, the District told Black and Asian American students not to be so sensitive or made excuses for harassing students by explaining that they were “not trying to be racist,” the report states.

Students didn’t like the abuse and said they disliked attending school and missed school sometimes because of racial harassment, the report said.

“Parents and students across the District told us that these forms of harassment were so commonplace, they expected them to happen.”

“Some students said that they told teachers or other staff when they experienced harassment initially, but when the staff did not respond, the students became discouraged and doubted that staff would ever intervene. Many Black students said the harassment was so pervasive and happened so often in front of adults that they concluded school employees condoned the behavior and believed reporting it further would be futile.”

The school district agreed to retain a consultant to review anti-discrimination procedures. Among other steps, the district agreed to:

  • create a new department to handle complaints of race discrimination;
  • train staff on how to identify, investigate, and respond to complaints of racial harassment and discriminatory discipline practices;
  • inform students and parents of how to report harassment and discrimination;
  • create a centralized, electronic reporting system to track and manage complaints and Davis’s response to complaints;
  • implement student, staff, and parent training and education on identifying and preventing race discrimination, including discriminatory harassment;
  • analyze and review discipline data and amend policies to ensure non-discriminatory enforcement of discipline policies; and
  • develop a districtwide procedure to assess requests for student groups and treat such requests fairly

“Pervasive racial harassment and other forms of racial discrimination in public schools violate the Constitution’s most basic promise of equal protection,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. “This agreement will help generate the institutional change necessary to keep Black and Asian-American students safe.

The investigation started in July 2019, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A summary of the findings of the investigation and a summary of the agreement are below:

DOJ Davis County School District Investigation Findings by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

Dept. of Justice Davis County by LarryDCurtis on Scribd

Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at www.civilrights.justice.gov/.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section.

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DOJ investigation uncovers ‘serious and widespread racial harassment’ in Utah school district