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Multiple Utah Schools Fostered Racially Hostile Environments For 5 Years, DOJ Finds

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has concluded its investigation into racially hostile environments at multiple schools in a Utah school district.

In a release shared with Blavity on Thursday, the DOJ said an investigation revealed that staff employed by Davis School District had condoned discriminatory abuse against Black and Asian American students between 2015 and 2020.

The release states that school leaders failed to respond to reports that included documented use of the “N-word, among other racial epithets, derogatory racial comments, and physical assaults.”

School leaders’ negligence also “left students vulnerable to continued harassment.” 

According to the Associated Press, Black students said they were the subject of monkey noises and were told to “go pick cotton” and “you are my slave.” 

The investigation determined Black students were disciplined more “harshly” than their white counterparts and denied the chance to form student-led groups. 

The school district admitted that their data showed Black students were treated differently than their white peers and that incidents “were not handled appropriately.” 

“The district is wholeheartedly committed to creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all students free from harassment and discrimination,” the district said.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division said the harassment violates the Constitution. In the settlement agreement, though, the school district will be required to undergo review by consultants.

“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,” Clarke said. 

With the agreement, the school district will also be required to revise its anti-discrimination policies and procedures. Additionally, they will be required to create a new department to manage its racial complaints and train staff on how to identify, investigate and appropriately respond.

Parents will undergo educational training on how to identify and prevent racial discrimination.

The Justice Department said it’s dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of students.

“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,” Acting United States Attorney Andrea Martinez for the District of Utah said.

“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,” Martinez added.

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