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Davis School District named in civil rights lawsuit

Posted at 1:56 PM, Mar 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-26 19:12:57-04

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah — A new civil suit filed in federal court this week accuses the Davis School District of racial discrimination against a Black 9th-grade student.

The suit, filed by the parent of the student, names the district and three district employees as defendants, and accuses them of Intentional Discrimination in Violation of Title VI and Breach of Contract, referencing the settlement agreement between the district and the U.S. after a Department of Justice investigation found "severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive race-based harassment by staff in several District school and services.”

The parent is demanding a trial by jury and seeks, in addition to damages and legal fees, the district's "full compliance with the Settlement Agreement and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act."

According to the complaint, the student has been subject to racial harassment on a daily basis, which has continued in the wake of the settlement.

READ: Davis School District announces plans to address racism

The complaint states that has been frequently called "cotton picker" by fellow students, and is often asked to provide an "N-word pass," so that they can use the racial slur towards him.

The document further outlines three notable incidents involving the district employees named as defendants in the suit.

The first incident, which occurred in December of 2021, occurred at a school assembly, where the student attempted to get a white classmate to quiet down. Said classmate slapped the student's face in response.

The incident was witnessed by a teacher, who "did not approach or remove the White student who had slapped [the student] on the face" and instead approached the student, stating he would get an unsatisfactory grade for his conduct.

WATCH: Students using videos to spark change in Davis School District

The second incident, which occurred in February of this year, happened after the student was asked by a teacher to go see why some classmates had not yet returned from the restroom.

The student did as instructed and found the missing classmates using illegal substances. He returned to the classroom and reported what we saw to the teacher.

Later on, he was accused of having illegal substances by the school secretary, who demanded and searched his backpack. No contraband was found.

The third incident, which occurred the same day, had the student called into the office of the vice principal, who demanded that the student tell him what he had done with a female student.

The student stated he didn't know what the vice principal was talking about. After being pressed, he admitted to having kissed a female student, but did not understand why the vice principal was asking about it.

The vice principal demanded the student tell "the rest of the story," stating that he was aware of his criminal conduct and they had recorded "the whole thing" on video.

When the parent asked about the alleged video, district officials stated that no such video existed, expressing confusion as to why the vice principal was questioning the student to begin with.

The complaint further outlines how the incidents and ongoing harassment have caused the student to suffer from "severe anxiety and severe stomach aches before going to school each day." As a result, his grades have been steadily declining.

The district issued the following statement to FOX 13 News:

We cannot comment on pending litigation. However, the Davis School District is taking extensive steps since entering an agreement with the Department of Justice to eliminate racial harassment and discrimination at all levels.

The district takes all complaints of racial discrimination and harassment seriously and handles each with as much care and compassion as possible.

Since the October 2021 agreement, the Davis School District has:

• Implemented active and constant training to more than 9,800 employees — including all district administrators, department heads, principals, assistant principals, and coaches — at all 92 schools to prevent and address racial harassment and discriminatory discipline. The training has been approved by the Department of Justice.
• Hired the “Safeguarding Group,” a third-party consultant approved by the Department of Justice to assist the district with work associated with the settlement.
• Hired Dr. Jacqueline Thompson as a new assistant superintendent to focus on diversity and equity issues.
• Created an Office of Equal Opportunity with a new director (hire pending) and three district-level coordinators to receive, investigate and resolve complaints of racial harassment and discrimination. A group of school equity opportunity investigators will also be created to respond to complaints.
• Partnered with Hill Air Force Base leaders, the Davis County Commission and First Lady Abby Cox in efforts to increase inclusion and end discrimination and racism.
• Established a No More, Not Here campaign throughout its schools in an effort to end racism, bullying and harassment of any kind.
• Begun partnering with interfaith leaders across the Wasatch Front to eliminate racial harassment in Utah.

It will also be adhering to the following timeline with regard to:
• The Safeguarding consultant group providing a report and recommendations about district policies and practices by March 31.
• The district submitting complaint procedures to the Department of Justice by March 31.
• The district submitting a professional development plan to the Department of Justice by March 31.
• The Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity coming on board April 24.
• Developing a Department of Justice-approved central Reporting and Complaint Management System by April 30.
• Submitting a School Cultural and Climate Improvement Plan to the Department of Justice by May 27.