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Davis School Board member accuses district of discrimination on basis of race, religion, disability

Published: Thursday, May 22 2014 3:29 p.m. MDT

Davis County School buses at the Bus Farm in Farmington on Friday, Sept. 13. Davis School Board member David Lovato has filed a complaint with the U.S Department of Education accusing the district of discriminating against minorities, women and individuals who are not members of the LDS Church.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

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FARMINGTON — A member of the Davis School Board has filed a complaint against the district with the U.S. Department of Education alleging "unlawful acts of discrimination" on the basis of race, religion, color, gender and disability.

Board member David Lovato filed the complaint Monday with the department's Office for Civil Rights. He claims the district has engaged in nepotism and discriminatory hiring and promotion practices that have resulted in a lack of diversity in Davis County schools.

Minorities, people with disabilities and those who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are regularly overlooked by district officials for recruitment, promotion and participation on district committees, Lovato said.

"I decided to bring the complaint forward because I thought my issues were valid and that I had the support of evidence to back up the allegations," he said. "I felt that was the best way to hold the Davis School District accountable to address these issues."

Lovato said he has brought his concerns to his colleagues on the school board, but they've typically been met with very little response.

"I haven’t been satisfied with the feedback that I have received, and they’ve offered no remedies or solutions," he said. "It was just business as usual."

In the complaint, Lovato claims the discriminatory practices have had an adverse effect on the academic achievement of disabled and minority students.

He cites the lack of a district affirmative action plan and goals for the recruitment of disabled or ethnic minority job candidates.

Lovato also claims the only out-of-state college the district recruits from is BYU-Idaho, which is owned and operated by the LDS Church.

According to the complaint, only 3 percent of Davis School District teachers and administrators are not caucasian, despite 15 percent of the student body being racial or ethnic minorities. Lovato's complaint also states that none of the individuals appointed as school principals during the past year were disabled or ethnic minority candidates, and all of the new principals are members of the LDS Church.

"The Davis School District has an embedded business culture that promotes racism, prejudice and discrimination," the complaint states. "These practices harm adults, all children and youth, and have a profound negative effect on school achievement, self-sufficiency and social-emotional growth."

In an email, Davis School Board President Tamara Lowe said she was made aware of the complaint Wednesday evening and the board had not yet received an official notice from the U.S. Department of Education.

Lowe said it is important to her that students receive every opportunity possible and that district teachers are of the highest quality to help students succeed.

"I expect these allegations to be examined carefully, and any changes or improvements will be put into effect as soon as possible," she said.

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to respond to the complaint in 20 to 30 days, Lovato said, at which point he hopes mandated actions will be imposed on the district to effect positive change.

Lovato said it is unclear whether the discriminatory practices are the result of negligence or willful intent by district officials, but he added that employees have expressed to him a fear of reprisal for raising concerns.

"They’ve been doing it all along, and they go unchallenged," he said, "and it just seems to be getting worse."

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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