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A Utah Student Was Slapped, But a Teacher Punished Him While His Attacker Faced Zero Consequences, Says Lawsuit Filed by Mother Seeking to Address ‘Daily’ Racist Abuse

Racial harassment in the Davis School District in Utah is so severe that the U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene, but that has not stopped the blatant racism Black students deal with daily, according to a new lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star.

High school locker room with basketball team players (Stock Photo/Getty)

Nicole Sieger says her son has faced numerous racist encounters since the DOJ found out the district consistently ignored hundreds of reports of racial harassment for years. Sieger said her son has been called a “cotton picker” and the N-word by students and racially stereotyped by teachers and administrators over the past several months.

“Over this last school year, my son has been the target of certain faculty and administrators in his school,” Sieger said in a statement. “Though I have tried to deal with the school and school district directly to stop the targeting of my son, I found that the end result was an attitude of ‘What has happened to your son has happened and there is nothing we can do to fix it now.’”

Sieger said a white student slapped her son in the face after he told the student to be quiet during a school assembly. Sieger and her attorneys allege Cassie Grether, a white teacher who saw the incident, did not punish the other student.

Instead, she gave Seiger’s son, identified in the lawsuit as S.S., an unsatisfactory grade in conduct because he tapped the white student on the shoulder, thereby instigating the fracas. The white student, on the other hand, was never spoken to nor received any punishment, according to the complaint.

The ninth grader was also falsely accused by administrators and school staff, according to Seiger’s lawsuit. In February, he was asked to locate classmates missing from class. S.S. found the other students in the bathroom using illegal drugs.

When he reported it to a teacher, he was accused of selling the drugs to the students. The school secretary, Tracy Nolan, searched his bag, and she did not find anything, but school officials did not search the students he saw using the drugs, the suit claims.

Later that day, S.S. was questioned by the school vice principal, Martin Hardy, who accused him of “criminal conduct” with a female student. S.S. said he kissed the girl and could not understand why that would be an issue.

Hardy insisted S.S. tell him the “rest of the story,” and the “whole thing” was on the school district’s video, the complaint said. When Seiger spoke to district officials, they said the video did not exist. They also assured her that S.S. would not receive a poor grade in conduct.

Seilger named Hardy, Nolan and Grether in the federal civil rights against the school district.

The DOJ reviewed reports from 2015 to 2020 for the school district of nearly 73,000 students and found hundreds of documented uses of the N-word, other racial epithets and derogatory racial comments.

Black and Asian-American students, who each account for 1 percent of the student population, were also physically assaulted at dozens of schools, the DOJ said. The nation’s top law enforcement agency said Davis Schools failed to respond to the harassment, which led students to believe “the district condoned the behavior.”

The DOJ said the district rejected requests for Black student groups, while similar requests from their peers were approved. Black students were also disciplined more harshly than white students for similar behavior in the district, the DOJ said.

Under the agreement, Davis Schools had to hire a consultant to review and revise anti-discrimination policies and implement reforms. In addition, the school system had to create a department to handle discrimination complaints and create a reporting system for complaints. It called on the system to train staff and educate students and parents on reporting and responding to complaints.

The district told The Salt Lake Tribune it has implemented reforms. Sieger and her attorney say the district breached the agreement and she is seeking damages as a result. Sieger said her son has anxiety and stomach aches every day before school, where he is called racist expletives on a “daily basis.” It has affected his grades, the family claims.

Before the DOJ took action, the family of a biracial boy sued the district over a 2019 incident in which he was pinned in the doors of a school bus and left to dangle as the bus driver continued to drive.

According to reports, the parents of a Black autistic girl who committed suicide are also considering filing a lawsuit. Izzy Tichenor’s mother told reporters she called the district several times to complain about bullying before her daughter died.

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