After discovering that the Department of Justice had been collecting data about their children, parents in Utah are raising alarm.
In July 2019, the Civil Rights Division began investigating complaints of racial discrimination. The October 2021 settlement included the transfer of information about individual students, teachers, and administrators. According to the agreement, the district submitted the data of students on July 1.
The settlement agreement required that a master list be created of all students, including their names, grade, and race/ethnicity. Parents in Davis School District felt they were being betrayed.
Utah Parents United’s Corrine Johnson stated, “I believe that it’s an overreach by the DOJ.”
She stated, “I do want it to be clear that we understand that racism does exist, and it does happen in Utah… But, we see absolutely no reason for us to collect demographic data on an entire school district, especially racial demographic information.”
Johnson stated that the DOJ was established to foster an inclusive environment. Data mining of children’s data is not allowed by this organization. Johnson said, “By collecting race data, the idea is that we’re trying racially profile students. We believe that racial profiling leads to more discrimination.
A second parent, who had recently moved to the district from Alaska, was also a subject of the DOJ investigation. She said she is now concerned about the DOJ’s data.
The district stated that the DOJ had begun investigating the district in 2019 and has continued to comply with all data requests ever since.
The mom from Alaska stated that the recent DOJ data breach, which affected thousands of California gun owners, added to the concerns about the “intrusive” collection of data.
She said that it was dangerous as you leave a child at risk of losing their data. All students are affected by the data being accessed. This doesn’t apply to only those who have reported racial harassment and discrimination.
The mother said, “I see no reason for that.”
The settlement requested information about training, including a list of employees who were required to attend but didn’t.
Another mom stated that her children were being forced to pay for the “severe shortage of leadership” in the school district.
She said, “It protects them from owning up to their mistakes.”
In its investigation, the DOJ found serious allegations of discrimination. The DOJ’s investigation found that non-Black students called Black students “n-word,” monkeys or apes, and made taunting monkey noises. According to the investigation, the harassment of students based on race was widespread and offensive in schools.
The data’s retention period was not yet known. According to 34 CFR 99.35, the federal government must maintain and destroy such information. “The DOJ has not yet communicated a date to District for the destruction of student records,” stated the Utah school district.
“The federal government has been collecting data about students’ ethnicity and races for many years. According to the district, these are required by the U.S. Department of Education for federal education accountability reports. Federal law requires that each state reports the total number of students within these categories to the federal government. These reports are used to track changes in student enrollment, as well as other statistics such as graduation rates so that students can receive the education programs and services they need.
Johnson stated that Johnson believes Johnson’s example of the Department of Justice demonstrates the larger issue parents are having with children’s data being used without their permission and used in ways they do not feel meet a local educational need.
The Justice Department issued a statement saying, “The Department doesn’t comment on ongoing enforcement issues.”