Davis district initiates new partnership in efforts against racism in schools

Jan 4, 2022, 10:40 AM | Updated: Jan 5, 2022, 9:21 am
davis district...
FILE: Davis School District school bus. (Matt Gade/Deseret News)
(Matt Gade/Deseret News)

FARMINGTON, Utah — A Davis School District news release announced the district is bringing in new partners for a program to combat racism and discrimination in schools. 

The Davis School District announces new partnership

A district news release named its three new partners: Colonel Jenise Carrol from Hill Air Force Base, Utah First Lady Abby Cox and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson. With their help, Superintendent Reid Newey said the district is hoping to “eliminate discrimination and increase inclusion and equity” in schools. 

The Davis School District has received criticism for several reported instances of bullying and racism towards students from their peers. An investigation by the U.S. Justice Department reported cases of “severe racial harassment of black and Asian-American students” at Davis schools. 

Department of Justice investigates, publishes report about “serious and widespread racial harassment”

The department’s investigation of the district began in July 2019. They published their report in October 2021. 

The investigation revealed persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment of Black and Asian-American students by district staff and other students. The department’s review… found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word, among other racial epithets, derogatory racial comments, and physical assaults targeting district students at dozens of schools.

The investigation also concluded that Davis was ineffective in responding to instances of harassment and “condoned” harmful behavior against students, and especially against students with marginalized identities. 

As the news release stated, Davis is the second largest school district in Utah. The district has approximately 73,000 students enrolled in its 92 schools. The DOJ report said that Black and Asian-American students make up roughly 1% of the entire student population. 

After the investigation concluded and the DOJ published its scathing report, an agreement was made in order to remedy some of the alleged “failures” of the district in regard to protecting vulnerable students. 

Steps laid out for the district

Davis agreed to the following “anti-discrimination” policies and procedures. 

  • create a new department to handle complaints of race discrimination;
  • train staff on how to identify, investigate, and respond to complaints of racial harassment and discriminatory discipline practices;
  • inform students and parents of how to report harassment and discrimination;
  • create a centralized, electronic reporting system to track and manage complaints and Davis’s response to complaints;
  • implement student, staff, and parent training and education on identifying and preventing race discrimination, including discriminatory harassment;
  • analyze and review discipline data and amend policies to ensure non-discriminatory enforcement of discipline policies; and
  • develop a districtwide procedure to assess requests for student groups and treat such requests fairly.

Backlash following death of black, autistic student

The DOJ report was published in October. In early November, a Davis School District student died by suicide. Isabella “Izzy” Tichenor, a 10-year-old, Black, autistic girl was reportedly constantly bullied at school about her autism and her skin color

Tichenor’s family said her teachers at Foxboro Elementary contributed to the problem. They said Izzy felt her teacher didn’t like her

The district announced in mid-November that they’d be recruiting an independent team to investigate the instances of bullying Izzy’s family reported. Davis also issued a statement offering condolences and citing the planned investigation.

However, a statement issued on behalf of the Tichenor family expressed that they wished the district’s statement reflected their attitude and actions when Izzy was allegedly experiencing bullying. 

Read more: Davis School District will investigate suicide of autistic girl

Following the report and the death of Izzy Tichenor, the district publicized steps taken in accordance with their agreement with the DOJ and in an effort to combat racism. 

Read more: Davis School District appoints new assistant superintendent

The most recent addition of the 3 new partners is the district’s next step. 

The Davis School District School Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the district offices in Farmington. At the meeting, the district plans to unveil more “community-wide” anti-discrimination efforts.

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Davis district initiates new partnership in efforts against racism in schools