In a disturbing new report, officials with the Department of Justice have revealed that Black and Asian American students at a school district in Utah underwent years of verbal abuse and bullying while administrators willfully turned their back on the issue. In total, school records show at least 212 documented cases of Black students being called the n-word over a 5-year period — and that’s just the start of the offenses the school district swept under the rug and completely ignored.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez reported on the federal civil rights investigation by the Justice Department, which “detailed the disturbing pattern at the Davis School District in Farmington, Utah in a report and settlement agreement released during the first week of December. The agency had been investigating the school district since July 2019.”
While approximately 73,000 students are currently enrolled in the district, Black and Asian American children and teens comprise just 2% of the student population.
According to the DOJ, abuse at the school included rampant use of the n-word, white students calling Black students “their slave,” white students commenting on the supposed cleanliness of students of color’s skin and Asian American students repeatedly being told to “go back to China.”
Even more alarmingly, teachers were also sometimes involved in the bullying and racial abuse, ridiculing students in front of their peers, retaliating against those who reported harassment and endorsing numerous offensive stereotypes.
“A complaint reviewed by the DOJ indicates a teacher singled out a Latino student and taunted him for working at a taco truck, even when the student was not employed there,” Chavez said. “The findings [also] state several teachers admitted to investigators they heard students using racial epithets but did not report it to administrators.”
Investigators said students of color were also disciplined more harshly and more frequently than white students, regardless of the offense.
“In several cases, Black students were excluded from class through in- or out-of-school suspensions whereas their white peers received a conference,” the DOJ report revealed.
When CNN asked the school system to respond to the DOJ’s allegations, Davis School District spokesperson Chris Williams said the district feels “sorry for any student who felt this is not the place to be.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” Williams added. “We are not happy with what we read. We’d like to think that it is not us, but it is us. We really have to work hard.”
Following news of the DOJ’s investigation, the Davis School District agreed to a massive settlement in which they promised a number of changes, including increased staff training, a new system for investigating reports of racial harassment from students, the creation of a new equal opportunity department and more.
In a statement, Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the agency’s civil rights division, said, “pervasive racial harassment and other forms of racial discrimination in public schools violate the Constitution’s most basic promise of equal protection. 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.”
How well those changes will work remains to be seen, however. The Davis School District has been at the center of several controversies and claims of racial discrimination in the past.
“In 2019, it settled a civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a biracial student who was dragged by a school bus,” Chavez reported. “The boy’s family alleged a then-bus driver closed the vehicle’s door on the student’s backpack and dragged him about 150 feet because of his ‘racial animus’ toward students of mixed race.”