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Justice Department slams Davis School District for 'serious and widespread' racial harassment

Posted at 9:40 PM, Oct 21, 2021

FARMINGTON, Utah — The U.S. Department of Justice is condemning Davis School District for "serious and widespread" racial harassment after a two-year investigation.

In 2019, surveillance video shows a Davis School bus driver closing the doors on the backpack of a bi-racial 14-year-old student. He was dragged an estimated 175 feet.

“It was scary and it wasn’t right that somebody is hurting kids,” said Brenda Mayes.

Davis School District settled with Mayes who sued, accusing racial discrimination and assault.

Mayes brought her concerns to the Department of Justice, accusing the district of ignoring numerous complaints of racism by the bus driver.

In a shocking report released Thursday, the Department of Justice says the bus incident was seriously mishandled by the district.

“If it takes investigations and settlement and intervention, you have a serious, serious problem,” said Mayes.

DOJ investigators also found the district intentionally ignored serious and widespread racial harassment in its schools for years. They also failed to respond to hundreds of reports from students of color being called racial slurs and mistreated.

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“We had them calling them the ’n-word' and drawing pictures of my kid and the other Black kid hanging from nooses and the administration didn’t do anything,” said Mayes.

“There was very little representation. When [my Black daughter] was told that her skin and her hair were stupid, the principal told me it’s like saying your clothes aren’t fashionable,” said Allison Schlichter.

“We have a lot of work to do. 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,” said Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams.

The DOJ said in a statement that refusing to intervene also created a racially-hostile environment, leaving students of color vulnerable to even more abuse.

“We are sorry for any student who felt this is not the place to be. We apologize for that,” Williams said.

The DOJ also found the district punished students of color disproportionately compared to white students.

As part of a settlement with the DOJ, the district must create an equity department and an electronic reporting system where students can make complaints of racial harassment.

Every change by the district will need to go through the Justice Department. The district has five years to meet the settlement expectations.

"They have huge changes I’m glad they’re saying they need to make. It’s scary they didn’t realize they needed to make changes before they had somebody forcing them to,” Mayes said.