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The U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington D.C. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Utah school district intentionally ignored racial harassment and abuse for years despite repeated complaints, the Justice Department said this week.

Why it matters: An investigation launched in 2019 revealed "persistent failures to respond to reports of race-based harassment of Black and Asian American students by district staff and other students," according to the DOJ.

Details: The review, which focused on 2015 through 2020, found hundreds of documented incidents where physical assaults and derogatory racial comments targeted students at dozens of schools in the Davis School District.

  • Black students told the DOJ that white and other non-Black students "routinely called Black students the n-word and other racial epithets, called them monkeys or apes and said that their skin was dirty or looked like feces."
    • "Peers taunted Black students by making monkey noises at them, touching and pulling their hair without permission, repeatedly referencing slavery and lynching, and telling Black students 'go pick cotton' and 'you are my slave.'"
  • White students also frequently called Asian American students pejorative slurs, including "yellow" and "squinty," and told them to "go back to China."

The district would tell Black and Asian American students not to be so sensitive or try to make excuses by claiming perpetrators "were not trying to be racist," the DOJ's report states.

  • Though it designated a compliance officer to probe complaints of racial harassment, the district failed to investigate or otherwise respond to complaints elevated to the officer.
  • Davis also disciplined Black students more harshly than their white peers for similar behavior, according to the DOJ.
  • Meanwhile, staff had leeway to commit "severe, pervasive and objectively offensive race-based harassment" in several schools and services.
  • Black and Asian American students each comprise roughly 1% of the approximately 73,000 students enrolled in the district.

Driving the news: The DOJ's Civil Rights Division reached a settlement with Davis this week. As part of the agreement, the district will conduct an outside review of anti-discrimination policies, create an online reporting system and establish a new department for race-based complaints, among other things.

  • Axios has reached out to the school district for comment.

What they're saying: "[F]or years, Davis’s ineffective response left students vulnerable to continued harassment and that students believed the district condoned the behavior," the report says.

  • "This agreement will help generate the institutional change necessary to keep Black and Asian-American students safe," assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
  • "As the federal partners who work and live in this community, 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," added acting U.S. attorney Andrea Martinez for the District of Utah.

"The district takes these findings very seriously," Davis said in a statement to ABC News. "The district pledges to correct these practices."

Go deeper

Updated Dec 7, 2021 - Axios Atlanta

Atlanta's school board opposes Buckhead cityhood

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education has come out against the push to create Buckhead City.

Why it matters: APS argues that Buckhead’s secession would significantly impact its budget, school board chair Jason Esteves told Axios.

Young Dems more likely to despise the other party

Expand chart
Data: Generation Lab; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Nearly a quarter of college students wouldn't be friends with someone who voted for the other presidential candidate — with Democrats far more likely to dismiss people than Republicans — according to new Generation Lab/Axios polling.

Why it matters: Partisan divides — as each side inhabits parallel political, cultural and media universes —make a future of discord and distrust in the U.S. all the more likely.

JPMorgan: "Full global recovery" in 2022

Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

JPMorgan Chase Global Research says in a forecast to clients: "2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the global pandemic, and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the COVID-19 outbreak."

The big picture: The bullish report sees "a return of global mobility, and a release of pent-up demand from consumers (e.g. travel, services)."