DOJ reaches settlement in racial harassment of Black, Asian-American students in Utah School District

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UTAH (ABC4) – The Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office reached a settlement with the Davis County School District for racial discrimination of Black and Asian American students.

After a two-year-long investigation, it was revealed that there were persistent failures, by district staff and students, to respond to reports of race-based harassment of Black and Asian-American students.

The investigation, which was focused from 2015-2020, found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word, multiple racial epithets, derogatory racial comments, and physical assaults targeting students at dozens of schools.

The department found that Davis School District disciplined Black students more harshly than their white peers for similar behavior and that Black students were denied the ability to form student groups while supporting similar requests by other students.

The DOJ concluded that Davis School District’s ineffective response left students vulnerable to continued harassment and that students believed the district condoned the behavior.

“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. We look forward to Davis demonstrating to its students and school community that it will no longer tolerate racial discrimination in its schools.” 

The agreement states that Davis School District will have to retain a consultant to review and revise anti-discrimination policies and procedures and support the district as it undertakes significant institutional reforms.

The press release from the DOJ also states that Davis School District will:

  • 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.

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