DOJ Reaches Settlement Over Racial Harassment in Utah School District

In Summary

The DOJ found Davis disciplined Black students more harshly than their white peers for similar behavior. 

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for Utah reached a settlement with the Davis School District in Utah to address race discrimination toward Black and Asian American students.  

Per the release, the investigation revealed persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment of Black and Asian American students by district staff and other students.  

The investigation unveiled hundreds of documented uses of the N-word, racial slurs, derogatory racial comments and physical assaults targeting district students at dozens of schools. 

The department concluded Davis’ ineffective response left students vulnerable to continued harassment and students believed the district condoned the behavior. The department also found Davis disciplined Black students more harshly than their white peers for similar behavior. 

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The school district also denied Black students the ability to form student groups while supporting similar requests by other students. Black and Asian American students are each roughly 1% of the approximate 73,000 students enrolled in the district. 

“Pervasive racial harassment and other forms of racial discrimination in public schools violate the Constitution’s most basic promise of equal protection,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division in the release. “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 investigation was opened in July 2019 under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

“The Justice Department thanks the many parents and students who came forward and shared their experiences and the Davis School District for its cooperation with our investigation,” wrote Acting United States Attorney Andrea Martinez for the District of Utah. “As the federal partners who work and live in this community, we are hopeful that this agreement is the start of a new chapter in which Black and Asian American students will attend Davis schools without fear.” 

Under the agreement, Davis will retain a consultant to review and revise anti-discrimination policies and procedures and support the district as it undertakes significant institutional reforms. Among other steps, Davis 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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