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Students alleging racism in violation of settlement have claims dismissed

U.S. Western District Courthouse
Posted at 4:42 PM, Dec 15, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal district court judge dismissed claims by three Black North Layton Junior High School students who alleged that the Davis School District did not comply with a settlement it made with the Justice Department over its systematic racial discrimination.

According to the October 20, 2021 settlement, because the District violated Black students' equal protection rights through its "pervasive violations" and “discriminatory enforcement of its codes of conduct,” it was ordered to take steps to "end racial harassment, prevent its recurrence, and eliminate any racially hostile environment that currently exists in its schools, programs, and activities . . . .”

But in dismissing claims brought by the three students, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball stated that according to case law, the settlement would have had to make it clear that individual students could make a claim, and it did not.

In the order, Judge Kimball said that, "Recognizing a third‐party beneficiary status for individual students would open the door for each individual Black or Asian American student to bring an individual breach of contract claim, even if there were no harm to them. Allowing individual students to bring suit for violations of the Settlement Agreement would lead to untenable results that the parties could not reasonably have intended."

Instead, the settlement outlined several requirements that the Davis School District had to follow, including development of a central complaint management system, a statement to the school community of its intent to create a harrassment-free environment, and training to address racial discrimination.

Parents of the three students who filed the civil rights lawsuit said their children were subject to ongoing racist taunts, yet the school did not take action against the alleged abusers.

They argued that their children were racially harassed by students on a daily basis, being called “cotton picker,” the “N” word, “monkey,” and “Poo‐Skin”; hearing students make “monkey” sounds toward them on the bus and at school; and hearing students ask for an “N‐word pass” as well as discrimination by school employees.

But the court ruled that the parents' claim that their children's rights were violated could not seek relief under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, as they ruled a claim could not be based on the Act itself but on a violation of a constitutional right.

However, the ruling stated that the students could make a claim that their rights were violated under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. It also said that the claims raised by a student who was no longer enrolled at the school could continue.

In 2021, Foxboro Elementary School student Izzy Tickenor died by suicide after her mother claimed she had been bullied, with no intervention by school personnel. Izzy was Black and autistic, and a school investigation said they found no direct evidence that the bullying was due to her race or disability.