Utah school district has ignored hundreds of racial harassment complaints against black and Asian American students, DOJ says

The Justice Department detailed the disturbing trend in the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, in a report and settlement agreement released this week. The agency had been investigating the school district since July 2019.

Black students were called the n word, said “you are my slave” by other students, and said their skin was dirty or “looked like feces” on several occasions. Meanwhile, Asian American students have been called insults and urged to “return to China,” the report said.

The school district was aware of the harsh environment and documents showed records of at least 212 incidents in which black students were called the n-word in 27 schools between 2015 and 2020, according to the Justice Department.

But district officials often ignored complaints, dismissed them, and at times “told black and Asian American students not to be so sensitive or made excuses for harassing students that they didn’t. were not trying to be racist, “” the DOJ reports.

CNN has contacted the school district for comment. Chris Williams, a spokesperson for Davis School District, told CNN affiliate KSTU the district felt “sorry for any student who thought this was not the place to be.”

“We have a lot of work to do. We’re not happy with what we’re reading. We would like to think it’s not us but it’s us. We have to really work hard,” Williams told KSTU.

As a result of the investigation, the Davis School District signed a settlement with the Department of Justice. The district agreed to many changes, including the creation of additional training for staff to investigate and respond to racial harassment, the creation of a new equal opportunities department, and the development of an electronic system to receive and manage reports of racial harassment and discrimination.

“The pervasive racial harassment and other forms of racial discrimination in public schools violate the Constitution’s most basic promise of equal protection,” said Kristen Clarke, deputy attorney general of the civil rights division of the agency. “This agreement will help generate the institutional change necessary to ensure the safety of Black and Asian American students. We look forward to Davis demonstrating to his students and his school community that he will no longer tolerate racial discrimination in his communities. schools. ”

Teachers and staff chose not to intervene

The students told investigators that staff members ridiculed students in front of their peers, retaliated against those who reported harassment and approved of stereotypes, according to the Justice Department.

A complaint reviewed by the DOJ says a teacher singled out a Latino student and taunted him for working in a taco truck, even when the student wasn’t working there.

The results indicate that several teachers admitted to investigators hearing students use racial epithets but did not report it to administrators.

There are approximately 73,000 students enrolled in the district. Black and Asian American students each make up about 1% of the student body.

Investigators found that black students were punished harsher than white students for similar offenses during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.

“In several cases, black students have been excluded from the classroom by suspensions inside or outside the school while their white peers received a lecture,” according to the Justice Department report.

The district has already been accused of discrimination. In 2019, he settled a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a biracial student who was dragged by a school bus. The boy’s family alleged that a bus driver at the time closed the vehicle door on the student’s backpack and dragged him about 150 feet due to his “racial animosity” towards the students. Métis students.

The complaint cited at least two previous incidents involving other students dating back to September 2017.

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