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Davis School District describes efforts to curb racial discrimination

By Mark Shenefelt - | Mar 24, 2022

SAMANTHA MADAR, Standard-Examiner file photo

Members of the Utah Black Roundtable attend a Davis School Board meeting on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at in Davis School District in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — The Davis School District on Thursday detailed actions it has been taking to stem racial discrimination and harassment since a U.S. Department of Justice report last fall found widespread mistreatment of Black and Asian American students.

Information about the district’s new programs was offered after a woman filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that her Black son has undergone repeated racial harassment at North Layton Junior High in the months since the Department of Justice’s settlement with the district.

In the suit, Nicole Sieger’s attorneys asked the federal court to issue an injunction to enforce the settlement on behalf of her son, “an intended beneficiary of the agreement.” The district “did not in good faith and genuinely undertake the interim steps required by the settlement agreement,” the suit contended.

Chris Williams, the district’s operations and communications director, objected to claims that officials are not working rapidly to implement steps set out in the settlement. “Allegations that we need to speed things up are not accurate,” Williams said Thursday. “We have done all sorts of things.”

He said the district would not comment on pending litigation. “The district takes all complaints of racial discrimination and harassment seriously and handles each with as much care and compassion as possible,” he added in an email, also listing advancements underway.

All 9,800 employees at the district’s 92 schools are receiving “constant training,” approved by the Department of Justice, “to prevent and address racial harassment and discriminatory discipline,” the district statement said.

Further, the district has hired a third-party consultant approved by the federal agency to help the district on its new programs; hired a new assistant district superintendent to focus on diversity and equity issues; and created an equal opportunity office to investigate and resolve racial discrimination and harassment complaints.

The district as well has entered into partnerships with Hill Air Force Base leaders, the Davis County Commission, Utah First Lady Abby Cox and interfaith leaders to work on efforts to increase inclusion and end discrimination and racism.

In all schools, a “No More, Not Here” campaign is targeting all forms of bullying and harassment, the district said.

The district in addition said it is on schedule to meet timelines set out on the settlement regarding reporting to the Department of Justice on district policies and practices, complaint procedures, professional development plans, hiring an equal opportunity director, and unveiling a reporting and complaint management system. The district also is on track, it said, to submit a school cultural and climate improvement plan.

The Department of Justice probe began in 2019 after a spate of race-related incidents that drew the attention of civil liberties groups. The investigation found “serious and widespread racial harassment” of Black and Asian American students. It cited persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment by district staff and other students.

Sieger’s suit alleges her son, a ninth grader, was called a “cotton picker” and was asked by white students for an “N-word pass” so they could freely aim racially infused insults at him. The student also allegedly was treated disparately from white students in several disciplinary situations, the suit said.


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