SALT LAKE CITY — A federal civil rights investigation released Thursday found widespread racial harassment of Black and Asian American students at a Utah school district, including hundreds of documented uses of the N-word and other racial epithets over the last five years.
The probe also found physical assaults, derogatory racial comments and harsher discipline for students of color at Davis School District, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
The district has agreed to take several steps as part of a settlement agreement, including a new department to handle complaints, more training and data collection.
Black students throughout the district told investigators about similar experiences of white and non-Black students calling them the N-word, referring to them as monkeys or apes and saying that their skin was dirty or looked like feces, according to the department’s findings. Students also made monkey noises at their Black peers, repeatedly referenced slavery and lynching and told Black students to “go pick cotton” and “you are my slave.”
The investigation found Black students were also disciplined more harshly than their white peers for similar behavior, and were denied the ability to form student groups while supporting similar requests by other students.
District officials admitted to federal investigators that their discipline data from at least four years revealed that staff treated students of color differently than white students, but the district did nothing to correct these disparities, according to the department.
The district acknowledged in a statement the investigation revealed incidents that “were not handled appropriately” and pledged to resolve any previous complaints.
“The district is wholeheartedly committed to creating and maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all students free from harassment and discrimination,” it said.
“We are hopeful that this agreement is the start of a new chapter in which Black and Asian-American students will attend Davis schools without fear,” said Andrea Martinez, acting United States attorney for the District of Utah, which released the results of the investigation jointly with the Civil Rights Division.
Black and Asian American students are each roughly 1% of the approximately 73,000 students enrolled in the district north of Salt Lake City.