Apparently, Utah’s Davis School District is a microcosm of America.
Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice began an investigation into a multitude of complaints by non-white students detailing the bullying and discrimination they faced at the hands of white students and district employees. Basically, the district is overwhelmingly white, and because it’s overwhelmingly white, racial harassment of Black students and students of color routinely went ignored, unchallenged and in many ways, was perpetuated and even encouraged by those in positions of authority.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the DOJ released the findings of its investigation, which began in 2019, on Thursday saying the district intentionally ignored hundreds of complaints by students amounting to “serious and widespread” racial harassment in its schools for years.
“As a consequence of this dismissive attitude to serious racial harassment, a district-wide racially hostile environment went unabated,” the department wrote in its report. And “the district left students of color vulnerable to continued abuse.”
While the department’s report makes no mention of what prompted its investigation in the first place, the Tribune noted that two months before the audit began, a male student in the district who is biracial was purposefully trapped in the doors of a school bus by the white driver who drove the bus forward while the boy was still dangling outside.
In that incident, which happened in May 2019, investigators found that school officials really didn’t care much about the harm done to the boy and, instead, were more concerned with protecting “certain employees from discipline.” In other words: Who cares that the bus driver was giving off big drag-a-negro-from-the-bumper-of-his-pickup vibes? He is white and the kid is Black, so really, nothing even happened, amirite?
According to the Tribune, “The district ultimately settled that civil rights case, paying the family $62,500 and acknowledging the ‘racial assault,’ but that settlement apparently failed to serve as a warning that the district’s culture of unmitigated racism might eventually become a major problem for people other than the small minority of melanin-rich students who have already suffered more than children ever should.
The DOJ’s report makes the Davis School District—where 82 percent of the 73,000 students are white and Black students tie with Asian students for the smallest percentages at one percent each—sound like a Ku Klux Klan training camp that used its minority students as test dummies for a new generation of white supremacists.
And, for many of those minority students, the racism began long before the two years ago when the DOJ investigation started.
“Some students, now in middle and high school, said they had experienced racial harassment each year since they were in kindergarten,” the DOJ report said. “Students who attended school in other districts told us that the harassment they experienced in Davis schools was worse by far.”
Investigators reportedly reviewed more than 200 complaints by students of color over a five-year period. Black students reported being called the n-word repeatedly and being physically attacked if they tried to do anything about it. Among other blatantly racist offenses, some also said they were routinely threatened with lynchings, told to “go pick cotton,” told their skin looked dirty or “looked like feces” and often mocked by white students with monkey noises.
The DOJ found that these things often happened in front of teachers and other faculty members who either ignored the behavior, downplayed it when Black students complained or discouraged the students from reporting the incidents and basically told them to get over it.
In fact, many teachers at the schools in the district are so racist themselves that the DOJ investigators couldn’t even get through their audit without witnessing racism firsthand.
The investigative team reported that they were interviewing one white district staff member who literally didn’t know how to refer to Black students—so she landed on a racist and outdated term.
She reportedly pointed to a DOJ attorney, who was Black, and said the students were “colored” people like him.
Of course, the DOJ also reported that Black students were disciplined more harshly than white students—but that’s pretty much the case in schools everywhere in America.
The report also found that Black students were disallowed to fly Black Lives Matter flags or form clubs around their identity like other racial and ethnic groups were allowed to—but that’s just good old-fashioned American white fragility.
Again, apparently, the Davis School District is just America being America.
Anyway, as a result of the investigation, the district has been ordered to make changes including the establishment of an equity department to handle complaints of racial discrimination, which is to be led by someone who must first be approved by the federal government. “Davis is also required to train all staff on how to identify, investigate and respond to complaints of harassment. And it will educate students and parents, too, on how to prevent discrimination,” the Tribune reported.
In addition, the district must launch an electronic reporting system, which will be audited every year, where students can report racist incidents and where administrators can track and respond to every complaint.