Justice Department Investigation Finds Utah School District Ignored ‘Serious and Widespread’ Racial Harassment of Black and Asian Students

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Students file out of school in Davis School District in 2020. In a report released Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, the U.S. Justice Department says the district has enabled “serious and widespread racial harassment.”

Davis School District has intentionally ignored “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years — failing to respond to hundreds of reports from Black students after they have been called slaves, the N-word, and heard threats that they would be lynched, according to a jarring report from the U.S. Department of Justice.

That refusal to intervene ultimately created an atmosphere that was so oppressive that some kids of color feared coming to class, the report said. Many stopped reporting acts of discrimination, which were often witnessed by teachers who didn’t step in, they said. A few told Justice investigators they felt the district was condoning the way they were treated by taking no action.

“As a consequence of this dismissive attitude to serious racial harassment, a district-wide racially hostile environment went unabated,” the department concluded in the report released Thursday. And “the district left students of color vulnerable to continued abuse.”

The findings from the Justice Department come after two years of investigation of the predominantly white northern Utah school district, starting in July 2019.

The department does not note what prompted its audit. But in May 2019 — two months earlier — Davis School District drew national attention when the family of a biracial boy who went to school there filed a lawsuit, describing how the boy was purposefully shut in the doors of a school bus by the driver and left dangerously dangling outside as he drove forward.

The report specifically mentions that incident, saying that it was seriously mishandled by the district, which focused on protecting “certain employees from discipline” rather than worrying about the boy being endangered. The district later acknowledged it had received previous complaints about the bus driver’s discriminatory behavior that were brushed aside.

The district ultimately settled that civil rights case, paying the family $62,500 and acknowledging the “racial assault.”

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SOURCE: The Salt Lake Tribune, Courtney Tanner